I LOVE YOU, BETH COOPER
** (out of 5)
July 10, 2009
Hayden Panettiere as BETH COOPER
Paul Rust as DENIS COOVERMAN
Jack Carpenter as RICH MUNSCH
Lauren London as CAMMY ALCOTT
Lauren Storm as TREECE KILMER
Shawn Roberts as KEVIN
Studio: Fox Atomic
Directed by: Chris Columbus
BY KEVIN CARR
Listen to Kevin’s radio review…
Most guys in this country remember the girl they were secretly in love with during high school. If you fall into this camp, you will at least relate to the new film “I Love You, Beth Cooper.”
This film tells the story of a geeky valedictorian who professes his love to Beth Cooper (Hayden Panettiere) during his graduation speech. In the process, he also tells off a bunch of the kids in the class and embarrasses much of the school. However, Beth is mildly impressed with his gusto, so she joins him for a last night of high school partying and gives him the time of his life.
We’ve seen a lot of these last night of high school films over the years, however they usually end up rated R. Movies like “Porky’s,” “Superbad” and “Dazed and Confused” have become classics partly for how they managed to push the envelope of good taste and remain funny. With its PG-13 rating – and the fact that it’s going up against the sure-fire offensive raunchiness of “Bruno” this weekend – it seems too low key.
This is the first real star vehicle for Panettiere, who has a long acting history but hasn’t done anything huge since she broke out on the scene on NBC’s “Heroes.” Unfortunately, this is a bit of a miscasting nightmare for her. Panettiere is just too cute to pull off the sexiest girl in school. And while she’s over 18, she looks like she’s about 15, which just made me feel creepy with her in that role. I suppose this is why Hollywood usually casts young twentysomethings in these high school roles, so the red-blooded American males in the audience don’t feel too weird.
Panettiere is supported with a cast of virtual unknowns, including Paul Rust as Denis the valedictorian. Rust does have a certain level of empathy that he carries, but he clings so hard to his geeky nature throughout the film that I lost sympathy for him about half-way through. It’s one thing to be a bit of a geek, but to use your geekiness as a fall-back position for everything, it wears thin. I know that nerd is in right now, but this is just too much.
“I Love You, Beth Cooper” is meant to be a bit of a coming of age movie, but the character of Denis doesn’t really come of age. He continues to carry a torch for Beth even when his dream of her perfection is shattered. I was hoping for some change in the characters, and we get some from Denis. However, in the end, Beth Cooper is revealed to be nothing more than a vapid, stuck-up princess who needs to be the center of attention. She’s really a wretched individual, and the movie delivers a bit of a mixed message on that point.
There are some funny moments in the movie, and it tries really, really, really hard to give the audience a high level of slapstick. However, it just tries a little too hard. If the movie were a high school geek and the American audience were the prettiest cheerleader, this would not be a match.
So, in closing, let me say this: I sort of liked you, but not that much, “I Love You, Beth Cooper.”