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STUDIO: 20th Century Fox
RUNNING TIME: 102 minutes
- Alternate Ending
- Deleted Scenes
- I Love You, Larry Doyle
- We Are All Different, But That’s a Good Thing
- Peanut Butter Toast
- Fox Movie Channel Presents In Character With Hayden Panettiere
- Fox Movie Channel Presents In Character With Paul Rust
A zany high school comedy from the writer of Duplex and the director of Adventures in Babysitting
Starring Hayden Panettiere, Paul Rust, Jack Carpenter, and Shawn Roberts. Directed by Chris Columbus. Written by Larry Doyle.
Adapted by Larry Doyle from his own novel and directed by Chris Columbus, poster child for middling mainstream directors, I Love You, Beth Cooper shows what happens when shy, nerdy high schooler Denis Cooverman (Rust) throws caution to the wind and confesses his infatuation with the titular hot, popular cheerleader (Penettiere) during his graduation speech as class valedictorian. Cooper is weirded out but curious, and much to the chagrin of her boyfriend Kevin (Roberts) decides to hang out with Denis and his best bud Rich (Carpenter). This of course leads to a crazy night full of wacky hijinks, valuable life lessons, and other clichéd crap. It’s Superbad for people who want to like Superbad but are more comfortable with Disney Channel original movies.
Larry Doyle used to write for The Simpsons, and that actually kind of comes across in this film. Unfortunately for I Love You, Beth Cooper it’s more latter day Simpsons than the golden years; there are ideas with potential, but they’re either undercooked or trying way too hard. Everything falls flat, and the best the movie ever manages is “mildly amusing.” Columbus and the cast desperately try to give life to jokes that were probably a few drafts short of clicking on the page, but overcompensate by going annoyingly over the top and zany. The dramatic moments are supposed to be sweet and heartfelt but wind up sappy and tacked on like the lessons at the ends of old sitcoms. Actually, later in the film they get too drawn out and boring to be called “tacked on,” but you get my point.
Even as a still frame you can probably guess that this shot is in slow motion and set to hair metal
Granted, it ain’t easy balancing comedy and heart, but plenty of other movies and TV shows have proven it’s possible. I Love You, Beth Cooper consistently misses that mark and feels like a cheap knock-off of the real thing. The movie isn’t really helping itself by trying to pay homage to high school comedies past. It’s a pastiche of clichés and references with no sense of satire, self-awareness, subtext, or purpose. Maybe it would’ve worked if it rearranged the familiar bits and pieces in a clever way, but it just chews them all up and vomits them back at you in a shticky mess.
Paul Rust’s spazzy, mugging, pratfall filled lead performance is not only grating, it’s embarrassing – not for the character, like you might feel watching a show like The Office, but for the actor. It’s uncomfortable to watch. He seems to be shooting for the Michael Cera/Jessie Eisenberg brand of oddly charming, naturalistic awkwardness but he comes off as Christopher Mintz-Plasse’s non-union Mexican equivalent. I’m surprised he never says “glayvin!” or “nice lady!” Also, he looks a bit like a gangly geek version of Sean Penn… come to think of it, his performance kinda evokes I Am Sam.
“I AM SAM LOVE YOU, BETH COOPER!”
In some ways Jack Carpenter may actually be worse as Denis’ possibly gay, movie-obsessed best friend Rich. Instead of going pseudo autistic like Rust, he plays it as big and broad as a bad high school drama student, and his character is just the sassy gay best friend from countless romantic comedies crossed with a photocopy of a photocopy of Cameron from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off*. The rest of the cast is slightly less painful to watch, but otherwise pretty much on par. Shawn Roberts probably had fun playing Beth Cooper’s raspy, psycho army boyfriend Kevin, but fun for him doesn’t translate to fun for the audience, and he’s arguably the shallowest character in the film. Beth Cooper’s friends, played by Lauren London and Lauren Storm, are non-entities.
Hayden Panettiere is pretty, and I think the movie has some vague idea that her character is the one who subverts audience expectations, but she doesn’t really. The character is still unorgiinal and the performance, while not terrible, is just sort of there. Maybe some of that is on purpose, since she’s playing the obscure object of Denis’ desire, a person he’s infatuated with yet doesn’t really know, but it never leads anywhere interesting. I could go on, but you get the idea: the characters are all broad, one-dimensional stereotypes and the actors never manage to inject any real freshness or life into them.
“I THINK I MIXED UP MY SOCKS AND UNDERPANTS AGAIN”
Full disclosure: I haven’t read Doyle’s original novel (and the movie hasn’t exactly encouraged me to change that). But from what I’ve heard from reviews and people I know who have read it, it seems like it does some of the things the movie fails to do – undermining the clichés with satire, balancing humor and heart, finding some meaningful subtext. Again, I haven’t read it, so maybe that’s not true, maybe it’s exactly the same and the problem is that they adapted it too directly, that these things come across in writing but not on the screen. At the very least it sounds like the book gives you some clever prose, which would have been even harder to try to put in the movie than the mix of comedy and sincerity. Either way, I get the sense that somewhere in here there’s the potential for a fun satire of teen comedies. Instead the movie is bland, toothless, and empty.
“I MADE A BROWN SMELL IN MY UNDERPANTS SOCK”
There’s the alternate ending that all the I Love You, Beth Cooper fans have been clamoring for. It’s really more like a deleted scene than an alternate ending, and gives closure to the conflict between Denis and Kevin, something the finished movie lacks but doesn’t really need since those scenes already get way to repetitive and boring without adding another one. Then there are some deleted scenes the filmmakers were wise to delete since they would’ve added nothing. Finally there’s a series of exactly the type of boring EPK style featurettes you’d expect. Oh, and a homemade video of Paul Rust singing about toast that would feel extraneous on YouTube. I can’t imagine even people who like this movie care much about the special features.
3.0 out of 10
*Alan Ruck actually appears in the film as Denis’ cool dad. It’s like Tim Matheson being in Van Wilder, but somehow blander