Hayden Panettiere is a rising young star, no doubt. From watching I Love You, Beth Cooper you wouldn’t know it. Adapted from a book of the same name by Larry Doyle, this movie embraces all the cliches you know and love (or hate) from the teen romantic comedy grab bag offering little else to separate itself from every other adolescent rom-com that’s come before it.
Weathered director Chris Columbus, however, sure thinks this film is nothing like you’ve seen before. Somewhere in this awkwardly told comedy is supposed to be a deep-felt, coming of age storyline that we’re expected to be able to connect with. You know the one — nerdy guy expresses his undying love for the popular girl; she reciprocates and turns out to be not nearly as shallow as your kiddie pool (i.e., has problems of her own and is misunderstood) and together they connect on that extraterrestrial level known as puppy-love.
The nerd in I Love You, Beth Cooper is Denis Cooverman (Paul Rust) and during his graduation ceremony he unceremoniously announces his love for the popular cheerleader Beth Cooper (Hayden Panettiere). The next 80 minutes or so are spent convincing us that Denis and Beth, with tag-alongs Cammy (Lauren London), Treece (Lauren Storm) and Rich (Jack T. Carpenter), can miraculously meld together in the midst of a single night as they bounce from party to cabin bonfire to party to a bunch of other inconsequential and unrelated settings. Oh yeah, let’s not forget Beth has a boyfriend Kevin (Shawn Roberts) who isn’t too happy with his girlfriend’s goings-ons.
I’m willing to give a pass to the wholly unbelievable “love” story but what is unforgivable is the buckshot way in which this story is told. A director like Columbus (better known for his Harry Potter work) should know better. The peppered about comedic set pieces designed to bring our star-crossed lovers together and provide personalities to all are just plain amateur, at best. They don’t make the characters any more likable or provide any worthwhile insight as to why they behave the way that they do. Oh yeah, they’re not particularly funny either. There are just so many times you can see a kid get physically bruised up (hit by a car, ass kicked, etc.) and laugh. And the multitude of drug and sex jokes seem thoroughly out of place — mayhaps they’d have been better suited had I Love You, Beth Cooper been R-rated.
Stretching my definition of what a plus is; Ms. Panettiere is good, although her role in this hardly constitutes a stretch of her acting prowess. Her safety zone is playing that super-cool cheerleader type — here roughly combining elements of roles in Bring It On: All or Nothing and Heroes. Paul Rust isn’t half bad as the valedictorian looking for love and understanding. He maintains his sincerity throughout the film, even though I couldn’t (and ultimately didn’t want to) relate to his plight. As for the others in the supporting cast, well let’s just say if they weren’t in the film, it may have actually been better.
I Love You, Beth Cooper ends up being a very messily told tale that clumsily straddles the line between a teen comedy and an adolescence to adulthood bonding flick. If you’re dead set to see a movie of this ilk, I’d recommend you check out Can’t Hardly Wait instead.