'Can't Hardly Wait' Turns 15 Years Old: Remembering the Last of the Great '90s Party Movies

'Can't Hardly Wait' Turns 15 Years Old: Remembering the Last of the Great '90s Party Movies

Jun 12, 2013

Today, Can't Hardly Wait turns 15 years old and somewhere that dorky teenage version of you is still romanticizing the thought of snagging the hottest girl at school because, you know, you're charming and stuff. Released on June 12, 1998, Can't Hardly Wait marked the last of the great '90s party movies. A year later American Pie would hit theaters, ushering in a resurgence of the dirty teen sex comedy, and a new crop of movies that were more vulgar and sexual, and built around a series of big set pieces. 

But in between the more endearing John Hughes movies and the pie-f**king American Pie movies, there were these gems from a decade obsessed with wish fulfillment. These were films defined by their soundtracks, their party scenes and their colorful young teen ensembles full of kids who would either disappear into obscurity or go on to enjoy successful careers in Hollywood. The trio I remember most fondly are Dazed and Confused (1993), Empire Records (1995) and Can't Hardly Wait (1998), three movies that were all about embracing the moment. 

The moment your teenage self is on the verge of "that next thing," but every ounce of you is fighting it off because you're too invested in "the now" and in accomplishing the things you never got a chance to because you just weren't ready yet. Of course these accomplishments didn't involve climbing mountains or saving lives; in all actuality, it was simply about hooking up with the opposite sex or telling that girl you've had a crush on exactly how you feel before the opportunity passes. 

In Can't Hardly Wait, that girl was Jennifer Love Hewitt, who was riding her Party of Five popularity all the way to the big screen. She was both incredibly beautiful and supersweet, and everyone in the movie -- as well as those watching it -- was in love with her, including Ethan Embry, who would spend the entire film stalking the poor girl, vomiting out one sappy speech after another until, finally, his wish was granted. 

But Can't Hardly Wait wasn't just about scoring with J-Love, it was also about the school's nerd enjoying a brief moment of popularity, and two childhood friends reconnecting while coming to terms with how much they've changed over the years. It was about the college kid desperately clinging on to his glorious past, and the school jock's realization that his reign had come to an end. Sure it was corny and unrealistic in many ways, but it spoke to a generation desperate for a movie that defined them.

Something they could stick in that time capsule (otherwise known as the shelf in your attic full of DVDs collecting dust) and pull out anytime they needed to remember what it was like growing up and coming of age literally right before the Internet and cell phones changed our world forever. Can't Hardly Wait wasn't so much about the kids we were, but about the kids we wanted to be. The kids who took the risks we never did. The kids who said the things we never said. The kids who embraced their fears and desires instead of running from them.

The kids who could hardly wait do it all, see it all and feel it all before the night was over.



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