I Love You, Beth Cooper | Comedy, Teen | rated PG-13 (A,L) |starring Hayden Panettiere, Paul Rust, Alan Ruck, Cynthia Stevenson | directed by Chris Columbus | 1:42 mins
Nerdy valedictorian Denis Cooverman (Paul Rust) uses his commencement speech as an opportunity to burn several of his classmates, out his best friend and profess his love to the girl he set behind for many years, Beth Cooper (Hayden Panettiere). Against all odds, Beth Cooper decides that it is a sweet gesture and she and her friends go over to a pathetic little party at Cooverman’s house put together as an excuse to hang out with her. But with her ex-boyfriend in hot pursuit the group is sent on a long, wild night that just might change their lives.
Once a masterful producer of family films both warm and fuzzy and realistically intelligent, I Love You, Beth Cooper, is Chris Columbus’ ridiculously late entry into the teen romantic comedy market that hit it’s peak ten years ago. The movie feels like something that should have come out with 10 Things I Hate about You, She’s All That, Drive Me Crazy, Whatever it Takes and every other teen romantic comedy of 1999/2000, where it’s fantasy logic might have been lost in the white noise. But now, post-Not Another Teen Movie, it feels painfully dated.
There isn’t an authentic moment in the film. Where it not for the childhood photos of the cast over the credits (“awe”), you could probably make a case the movie was made by aliens observing human behavior from a distance with abject condescension. First of all, Rust is grossly mis-cast opposite the age-appropriate Panettiere and all of the action and slapstick is big and broad beyond cartoonish. It isn’t for a second funny, instead embarrassing itself with jokes either bad, misplaced or lazily executed.
But let’s backtrack to the premise. The idea that the prettiest, most popular girl in school would choose to spend graduation night with a nerd who professed his love for her instead of finding the act creepy and repulsive is too ridiculous to get my head around. Which slides the film right into propaganda territory, where it – for whatever purpose – wants to get the nerds out there to think if they are nice and do the right thing one day that great girl they’ve pined for will give them a chance. It’s a piece of nonsense wish-fulfillment, particularly manipulative given how young it appears to be aiming. Yes, in addition to the casting of Panetierre, Beth Cooper is staged like a wacky kids movie. Just a wacky kids movie with condoms, three-ways, ejaculate jokes and bad, bad, bad gay jokes. It’s not uneven, it’s an all-over-the-road multi-car wreck.
I Love You, Beth Cooper is going to fit the bill as a vehicle for Hayden Panettiere, another chance for pre-teen boys to look at the adorable Heroes cheerleader. The movie requires very little of her other than to show up. It is just like any of the dissapointing tease movies we all saw as kids. Nothing exciting happens, but but it’s just enough of a tease to put Columbus in the awkward position of panning the camera up the young girl’s body. The movie is creepy, illogically plotted, slapped together in execution, horribly unfunny, tonally inappropriate and generally embarrassing to watch. So much so every DVD purchase should come with an actual date with Panettiere as an apology.