Judge Clark Douglas does not love Beth Cooper. In fact, he doesn't even like her.
Our review of I Love You, Beth Cooper, published November 3rd, 2009, is also available.
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"Am I everything you've ever masturbated to?"
Facts of the Case
Dennis Cooverman (Paul Rust, Inglourious Basterds) may be the smartest person in high school, but he certainly isn't one of the most popular. He lusts after the super-hot and super-popular Beth Cooper (Hayden Panettiere, Heroes), but knows that he doesn't really have a chance with her. Figuring that he has absolutely nothing to lose, Dennis openly declares his love for Beth during his valedictorian speech. The move sorta-kinda works. Beth is amused by the gesture, and agrees to give Dennis a shot at winning her affection. Dennis' initial attempts fall flat, so Beth decides to show him how things work by giving him a tour of life on the wild side. Many wacky antics ensue!
It does I Love You, Beth Cooper absolutely no favors that I watched it within mere hours of re-watching Cameron Crowe's Say Anything. You see, I Love You, Beth Cooper attempts to pay homage to a wide variety of '80s teen movies, Say Anything being chief among them. Unfortunately, it lacks the good writing, genuine heart, memorable characters, and great soundtrack of that film, providing instead a clichéd and obnoxious teen flick that starts out awkwardly and never gets any better. I was rather surprised to discover that Chris Columbus is the helmer of this mess. Though Columbus is not a great filmmaker by any stretch of the imagination, he's always been a competent professional. I Love You, Beth Cooper feels like the misguided effort of a newcomer who needs to learn some basic filmmaking lessons, not a guy who's made over a dozen Hollywood features.
So little of what happens in this film is believable. It's one thing to slightly exaggerate real life for the sake of comedy, but I Love You, Beth Cooper pushes things to the point of absurdity at every possible occasion. Dennis' opening speech starts ordinarily, turns awkward, and then turns preposterous. That formula is applied to almost everything that happens in this movie, from Dennis' conversations with his parents to his violent confrontations with Beth's ex-boyfriend. Perhaps even more grating is the film's seeming desperation to be accepted as a quirky cult classic. Alas, many scenes are simply limp rips from other movies and the "original" moments quickly veer into dumb crudity. Add in a handful of scenes that attempt to be genuinely sentimental and you've got a pretty ungainly mix that just doesn't work.
The performances don't help very much, particularly that of Hayden Panettiere. On Heroes, Panettiere has established herself as a very convincing girl-next-door figure, but she just can't pull off the whole "high school sex goddess" thing. To make matters worse, when she attempt to switch from superficial to sweet about halfway through, we don't buy it. Paul Rust attempts to create the sort of oddball lovable loser that John Cusack essayed so perfectly in Say Anything, but he overacts and instead just comes across as a collection of irritating eccentricities. I particularly disliked Jack Carpenter (Sydney White) as an in-the-closet movie buff, whose constant spewing of movie trivia sounds absolutely nothing like the way actual movie buffs spew movie trivia. When he hears that someone hasn't seen Casablanca, he replies, "You haven't seen Casablanca, directed by Michael Curtiz?" Really? REALLY?
The whole thing builds to a third act involving a wet towel battle, a psychotic raccoon, Spider-Man underwear, and a threesome. It's as bad as it sounds.
The film is blessed with a very solid transfer, conveying the image with clarity and depth. This movie is pretty standard-issue from a visual perspective, so there's nothing that's going to knock you out, but the movie undeniably looks good. Facial detail and background detail is solid, blacks are reasonably deep, flesh tones are warm and accurate. To the film's detriment, it's pretty easy to see how fake most of the vomit and feces looks (and yeah, there's plenty of both within the film). The audio is also strong, offering some aggressively involving soundtrack selections and semi-immersive sound design. Audio is also clean and clear throughout.
A collection of lightweight featurettes and assorted odds n' ends can be found in the supplemental department. In "I Love You Larry Doyle" (6 minutes), the screenwriter attempts to convince us that his screenplay is actually quite clever, and in "We Are All Different, But That's a Good Thing" (8 minutes) all of the actors talk about how wonderfully unique their characters are. Agh. You also get two 3-minute Fox Movie Channel interviews with Paul Rust and Hayden Panettiere, a silly improvised song about Peanut Butter Toast performed by Rust, 7 minutes of deleted scenes, a (horrible) 6-minute alternate ending, and some theatrical trailers. All of this is pretty disposable, but I did enjoy the Peanut Butter Toast song.
A generally awful teen comedy, I Love You, Beth Cooper is a black mark on the careers of almost everyone involved. Avoid this mess at all costs.
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