July 09, 2009

I Love You, Beth Cooper

Save the cheerleader...save this movie?

Grade: C –

Director: Chris Columbus

Starring: Paul Rust, Hayden Panettiere, Jack Carpenter, Lauren London, and Lauren Storm

MPAA Rating: PG-13

Running Time: 1 hour, 42 minutes

If you need proof that the geek shall indeed inherit the Earth, or least Hollywood, look no further than teen comedies like I Love You, Beth Cooper. Yesterday’s nerds are today’s filmmakers, who now make movies to realize their suppressed fantasies about dorks who end up scoring with the head cheerleader and her buxom coterie.

For high school valedictorian Denis Cooverman (Paul Rust), his day-into-night dream begins when chooses his graduation speech to unveil the titular declaration to the resident campus queen, Beth Cooper (Hayden Panettiere). He also takes off on the collection of high school archetypes: the rich snob; the class bully; the gym teacher; the jocks; the creepy grads still hanging around their old stomping grounds; and even the latent homosexuality of his best friend, Rich (Jack Carpenter).

Inexplicably, Beth and her two BFFs figuratively crash Denis’ lame graduation party, which leads to Beth’s coked-up boyfriend, Kevin (Shawn Roberts), and his Army buddies literally crashing and trashing Denis’ house. Helping Denis and Rich escape bodily harm, Beth careens them into a raucous night of hopping from one formulaic setting to another: an isolated cabin; the gym locker room; a campfire in the woods; a party at the rich girl’s manse; etc.

The fundamental flaw in screenwriter Larry Doyle’s aimless adaptation of his own novel is that Denis is so socially inept – in his manner, dress, and Spider-Man tighty-whiteys – that it is inconceivable, even in the skewed reality of a Hollywood screenplay, that a blond bombshellette like Beth would canoodle with him until he, say, makes millions off a startup computer software company.

Former John Hughes protégé Chris Columbus tries to recapture the magic of both his mentor and the director’s first film, Adventures in Babysitting. Instead, Columbus continues his brand of bland filmmaking with PG-13 rated comedy whose edginess extends no farther than stepping in cow dung and sticking tampons up your nose.

Indeed, Columbus is so bent fashioning an homage that he imbues Rich with an encyclopedic knowledge of all things cinema, a device that grows wearisome by the tenth time he reels off some tortured impression of Humphrey Bogart, John Wayne, or Jack Nicholson. Even the casting of Ferris Bueller wingman Alan Ruck as Denis’ dad does little to evoke any nostalgia for 1980s romps this film wants to emulate. For those who prefer their business a bit riskier, Beth screeching, “Who says it’s supposed to be fun?” during one of her innumerable near-death joyrides is as close you’ll get. Sadly, as it applies to I Love You, Beth Cooper as the whole, it’s also the most descriptive.

Neil Morris

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