‘I Love You, Beth Cooper’: Not

July 10, 2009

 

I hate “I Love You, Beth Cooper,” a movie which, as a friend noted afterward, goes from grad to worse.

 

This Chris Columbus film is as painfully unfunny as any movie this summer – or in recent memory. A chimp could have written this script, if he had screenplay software and a “laugh-free teen comedy” program. The simian in question here is named Larry Doyle, who has several “Simpsons” scripts to his credit (as well as the novel on which this script is based). Perhaps he suffered a head injury since he wrote them.

 

Newcomer Paul Rust plays Denis Cooverman, high school valedictorian. As Denis speaks at his graduation ceremony, he uses the opportunity to say things he’s always wanted to voice but never had the nerve: outing his gay best friend Rich (Jack T. Carpenter); calling out a couple of bullies; and declaring his long unspoken love for cheerleader/golden girl Beth Cooper (Hayden Panettiere), to whom he’s never spoken despite sitting behind her, apparently, since grade school.

 

The rest of the film is about Denis and Beth’s long day’s journey into night accompanied by Rich and Beth’s posse. It’s an unlikely odyssey in which Beth and Denis are meant to bond, while Rich cavorts with her two friends, who are supposed to be funny – ditzy, slutty, stuck-up – but are just plain flavorless.

 

They engage in a running battle with Beth’s pumped-up, ’roid-raging boyfriend, go to a big party, take showers together at the high school – and generally fill 100 minutes of screen time with dud jokes and sadistic slapstick.

 

Columbus made his name in the ’80s as the writer of “The Goonies” and “Gremlins” and in the ’90s as the director of “Home Alone” and “Mrs. Doubtfire.” He has no excuse for a film this dismal.

 

Panettiere obviously has talent – and a career to go back to on “Heroes.” As a launchpad for the careers of Rust and Carpenter, however, this film resembles nothing so much as the space shuttle Challenger.

 

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