Andy Bockelman: My take: I hate you, ‘Beth Cooper’
If the teen comedy “I Love You, Beth Cooper” teaches us nothing else, it’s that public speaking can be made even worse when you think outside the box.
High school valedictorian Denis Cooverman (Paul Rust) may have just made the biggest mistake of his life. In delivering his commencement address, he divulged, among other things, his obsession with Beth Cooper (Hayden Panettiere), the most popular girl in school.
He doesn’t expect anything good to come of it, especially by way of her ultra jealous, military boyfriend (Shawn Roberts).
However, Denis is in for a surprise when Beth actually reciprocates, with her girlfriends (Lauren London, Lauren Storm) taking him and his best friend (Jack T. Carpenter) out for a post-graduation night on the town.
But in between the crazy intervals of the evening, he learns that the girl he has lusted after since seventh grade isn’t who he thought she was. And that may not be such a bad thing – if she doesn’t kill him during their all-night party quest.
Rust is easy to sympathize with as the typical high school nerd with delusions of passion. From his Spider-Man skivvies to his lack of a car, he’s every bit the underdog you want to root for, even if the full-sized poster of his dream girl above his bed is a little too creepy.
While Panettiere may look sweet, it’s hard to tell if it’s the actress or the character we’re supposed to like as the night progresses.
It seems like neither is the correct answer, with Beth proving herself a worse driver than Ted Kennedy and a little bit trampish to boot, trading tonsil hockey sessions with a convenience store clerk for six packs.
If Panettiere didn’t look so innocent, she could never get away with it. London and Storm certainly aren’t too likable as her friends, the kind of A-girls everyone always hated in high school.
Carpenter plays the sole enjoyable supporting character, Denis’s lifelong buddy Rich, who, even with his ska-inspired wardrobe and proclivity for quoting classic movies – a trait which hits home with some viewers more than others – ranks as little more than a footnote in the history of teen sidekicks.
This is made all the more noticeable as he tries to trade barbs with Denis’s dad, played by Alan Ruck, of “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off,” whose Cameron was a much better crony character from a much better teen movie.
Even with all the crude sexual references aside – not to mention the portrayal of Beth’s boyfriend as a cheating, cocaine-addled Marine – what is there to like about this movie?
Raunchiness is one thing, and it’s worked well in similar fare like “The Girl Next Door” and “Risky Business,” but what we see here isn’t even bold enough to be graphic. Instead, the story is a potentially sweet romance made perverse by characters that seem to want to be hated, particularly the titular head cheerleader, who refuses to respect herself as a person and thusly creates havoc in a vehicular capacity and on a greater scale, emotionally.
There are undertones of “American Graffiti,” but nobody learns anything here, nobody matures, and nobody seems to care. Granted, there are a few laughs to be had with the physical comedy – particularly a “Robin Hood” style locker room sword fight with wet towels replacing the blades – but so many of these stunt scenes are ridiculously overdone.
This is only complemented with a very obvious soundtrack that includes Foreigner’s “Feels Like the First Time,” Alice Cooper’s “School’s Out,” Kiss’s “Beth” – which just happens to be Miss Cooper’s namesake – and Airbourne’s “Too Much, Too Young, Too Fast,” which is almost sickening in the appropriateness of its title.
The final nail in the coffin for “I Love You, Beth Cooper” comes when Denis sheepishly asks of his girl, “What’s not to love?”
Well, would you like a list?
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