Fox // 2009 // 102 Minutes // Rated PG-13
Reviewed by Judge Daniel Kelly (Retired) // November 3rd, 2009
Still love me?
I Love You, Beth Cooper isn't a bad film, it's just an incredibly unremarkable one. The movie was given a hefty critical bashing on release back in July (on Rotten Tomatoes it ranks as the summer's third worst reviewed film), and the box-office was weak on account of opening alongside Bruno and a week before Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince. My expectations were exponentially low when I slotted the DVD into my player, and it's maybe due to this that I didn't find the movie to be the stinker everyone else seemed to. I'm not recommending I Love You, Beth Cooper, but it deserves a little more credit than it got. It's neither overly funny or charming, but it is inoffensively passable. Based on the media slander it had to take, it's probably fair that I stand up and denounce the film as mediocre rather than a downright cinematic plague.
Denis Cooverman (Paul Rust, Inglourious Basterds) is a nerd if ever you've seen one, destined for greatness after High School but part of a two man clique and prone to getting beat up for now. At graduation and as acting Valedictorian, Denis is required to give a speech, a chance he uses to voice his opinions on several people in the audience with his focus on one in particular. He proclaims his love for cheerleader hottie Beth Cooper (Hayden Panettiere, Heroes), intriguing her and angering her psychotic boyfriend in the process. Later that night Beth Cooper and her partners in crime turn up at Denis's house to show him and best buddy Rich (Jack Carpenter, The Journal) the night of their lives, all the while being pursued by her coked up beau who along with a few others would like nothing more than Denis's head on a platter.
Looking back on the great teen films, what titles come to mind? The Breakfast Club? American Pie? Maybe even Superbad? Well I Love You, Beth Cooper has nothing on any of those films and certainly is far removed from the genre's top dogs, but in equal measure isn't deserving of being mentioned alongside the very worst. The movie is a forgettable trifle of a picture, fluffy, cheery and not particularly satisfying, but all the same, hardly repugnant or disgusting. Director Chris Columbus is after all the man who wrote Gremlins and The Goonies, so he clearly has some idea about how to construct watchable comedy. I Love You, Beth Cooper isn't a great film, hell it's not even a particularly good film, but for the heck of fairness...see it before you shame it as a slimy genre lowlight.
The performances are ample but to say that these characters are unoriginal would be generous. The film attempts in its last few moments to throw a little extra meat on the title character's bones but for the most part she's your usual larger than life hot girl, buying booze, driving crazily, and actually treating her nerdy admirer in a rather condescending fashion. Panattiere looks cute throughout and certainly doesn't lack energy, but she's reigned in due to the character's hopelessly familiar personality, and her chemistry with Rust is pretty much non-existent. Speaking of the man, he is much the same; Rust gets to ply his trade to the gawky, gangly, and infatuated geek stereotype, trying hard but ultimately failing to overcome the sense of déjà vu stirred by his workmanlike character conception. It's not a performance totally lacking in warmth or without a little redemptive charm here and there, but hardly one for the teen movie yearbook either. The support is a little more colorful, especially Jack Carpenter as Denis's possibly gay best friend. Unlike the relationship between Hayden Panettiere and Paul Rust, the nerdy onscreen relationship between Denis and Rich feels genuine, the two conveying a mutual understanding and acceptance of each other rather nicely. For me these two are the most believable onscreen pairing in the film and unlike many critics I quite appreciated the little subplot in which Denis tries to get Rich to be open about his sexuality. As Beth's two slightly less gorgeous gal pals, Lauren London (90210) and Lauren Storm (The Game Plan) are adequate, used primarily for ditzy comedy and snarky one liners.
There are maybe two or three really good laughs during I Love You, Beth Cooper and a handful of other smile inducing or titter worthy moments but for the most part, it's not that funny a film. The style of humor also seems oddly unbalanced, one moment it's broad faced cow dung jokes, the next we're served slightly less PG-13 rated barbs concerning cocaine and cell phones doubling as vibrators. The average teenager should have absolutely no trouble with this (after all I just name checked Superbad as a favorite of the genre), but parents thinking about younger kids might want to be careful. In this day and age it's actually quite hard to decide what constitutes a family friendly PG-13 and what deserves the 13+ rating; Beth Cooper is probably worthy of the latter. Two cameos that occur during the film were pretty cool; Samm Levine is enjoyable for a few moments as a creepy Convenience Store Clerk whilst Alan Ruck raises a referential smile as Denis's Dad. Those with any sort of stock in the teen comedy genre will recognize Ruck as the legendary Cameron from Ferris Bueller's Day Off, one of the best examples this film type has to offer.
It's hard to find much emotional ground with which to latch onto the characters, and for all its efforts, the movie does seem light on heart. In many ways it's this and not the suspect laugh quota that makes I Love You, Beth Cooper no better than average, for a movie of this sort to succeed it needs some sort of emotional core or grounding in reality. Whilst the firecracker antics that make up the running are perfectly okay for fantasy, it's hard to see your average teen engaging to heavily with them, I'm sure everyone had some crazy nights in their youth, but this is the kind of stuff that occurs only in Hollywood. The movie tries to bludgeon home some extra character development at the end to try and make the protagonists on show a little easier to relate with (Beth especially) but I didn't buy the move, it reeks of laziness and a false sense of importance.
I Love You, Beth Cooper is a bright and breezy looking movie, the visual composition suiting its bubblegum tone pretty snuggly. Fox provided a screener disc for review so it's unlikely the audio and video here represents the standard that will appear on the retail DVD, so those two factors have been removed from the final verdict. However a selection of bonus features was present, the best of which is a sit down with the film's writer Larry Doyle. Doyle adapted the script from his own book and it's interesting to hear about the process, even if the final result was hardly breathtaking. Some deleted scenes (pointless) and an alternate ending (fairly different) are also on the disc, along with a few other standard interviews with cast members and a truly ludicrous improvised song feature entitled Peanut Butter Toast performed by Rust. Certainly for fans of the movie this isn't actually a bad release, if the finalized technical specs can match then this is decent enough DVD for such an unmemorable comedy.
I Love You, Beth Cooper isn't terrible but is inherently so-so and
unadventurous. Fans of those involved or of the genre as a whole might want to
give it a rental, everyone else might be better served going out and spending
their cash on the better teen movies mentioned throughout this review. So whilst
I don't hate you, Beth Cooper, it won't be long before I forget you.
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Scales of Justice
* 1.85:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (French)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (Spanish)
Running Time: 102 Minutes
Release Year: 2009
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13
* Alternate Ending
* Deleted Scenes