The Yoke's on Her

Can't Hardly Wait
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Six Days, Seven Nights
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The more things change, the more women stay the same--at the multiplex, anyway. While moviegoers crave new twists on female roles, the studios remain trapped in the early '80s. Or is that the early '50s?

Splice together Porky's and Sixteen Candles and you get Can't Hardly Wait, a movie whose rating (PG-13) doubles as its plot summary: "teen drinking and sexuality." The cast of caricatures includes a young Kurt Vonnegut-wannabe (Ethan Embry) and his love interest (Jennifer Love Hewitt), a gangsta-poser (Seth Green), a baby Bill Gates (Charlie Korsmo), and a neo-Molly Ringwald (Lauren Ambrose), along with the likes of "Girl Whose Party It Is," "Stoner Guy," "Gossipy Girl," "Ready to Have Sex Girl," and "Ready to Have Sex's Friend" (according to the credits).

Suffice it to say that this '90s version of '80s teen angst is neither new nor improved. The heroine, conveniently "undecided" about postgraduation plans, finds fulfillment in an ambitious boy, thus saving the screenwriters from having to create a complicated girl. She doesn't need to sacrifice career ambitions since she doesn't have any to begin with. Where Ione Skye played a fellowship-winning biochemistry student to John Cusack's kickboxing oddball in Say Anything (1989), Hewitt gets to flaunt her curvaceous bod. Meanwhile, the film's Molly Ringwald (Ambrose) defines the disaffected-but-optimistic pose for new millennium kids when she proclaims, "I do think there's such a thing as fate. It just works out in fucked-up ways."

Ditto the movie. Can't Hardly Wait supposedly "brings the popularity kings and queens to their knees" and "metamorphoses geeks into class heroes" (per the press kit). But much like those nostrums of normalcy, this '90s fusion of 90210 and Revenge of the Nerds hardly topples social hierarchies, since the Harvard-bound computer whiz gets the ultimate long-term revenge when the evil jock (Peter Facinelli) ends up in--gasp!--the working class. In the meantime, the football hero gets his comeuppance when partyers brand him a "fag" and take "incriminating" pics of him in compromising gay positions. Ha-ha.

You can be sure there are no gay jokes in Six Days, Seven Nights, although star Anne Heche's real-life romance with Ellen DeGeneres has certainly prompted a glut of homophobic handwringing by the Time and Newsweek set, drawing maximum media mileage out of tiresome questions about Heche's "believability" opposite Harrison Ford. Anticipating the furor, Disney's Touchstone Pictures reportedly beefed up the adventure part of this romantic comedy in order to sell it as an action movie.

Ironically, the action falters where the romance flies. Magazine editor Robin Monroe (Heche) lives out every career girl's escapist fantasy (?) when she's marooned on a tropical island with rough-hewn pilot Quinn Harris (Harrison Ford). There they drink rum, fend off spiders and dark-skinned pirates, and enjoy extended foreplay. The Mickey Mouse club knows that if het membership has its privileges, ambiguity has its rewards. In other words, with a special wink to Time subscribers, they go for subtextual frisson. Thus, Ford comments on Heche's boyish bod ("Your tits are too small and your ass is too narrow"), inquires whether women want "men in touch with their feminine side," and gropes around inside her shorts in search of a misplaced snake--while Heche marvels at the way Ford wields a wooden piling.

Since the filmmakers are apparently less than confident about how well Heche will figure into the fantasies of straight women, they don't depart much from old-fashioned Hollywood romance--which is to say that Heche comes outfitted in tight tanks and skimpy minis, augmented by a slew of deliberately distracting nipple shots. Of course, the sassy career girl eventually surrenders her will to the grizzled rogue, telling him: "I need you to be my competent captain." In all fairness, Heche does prove an equally reliable action hero, but only after Ford has tutored her in the ways of aviation and hetero union: "Take the controls," he says. "I want you to get a feel for the yoke."

Perhaps the 'phobes could have worried themselves more productively over whether it's romantically ethical for Heche's dewy doe to fall for such an old goat (no offense to Ford, who does look good here). Between Warren Beatty and Halle Berry, Robert Redford and Kristin Scott Thomas, and Michael Douglas and Gwyneth Paltrow, the career expectancy of Hollywood ingenues has come down into the single digits. Will Disney's next summer-love vehicle be a light romantic comedy starring Sarah Michelle Gellar and Gene Hackman?

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