Movie Review: It’s the script, not the acting; I Love You, Beth Cooper fails

BY ELLEN HARRIS | JULY 13, 2009 7:15 AM

* out of *****

I Love You, Beth Cooper is the purest definition of a cliché flick. It’s not even “good” cliché, which is what makes this movie a grossly wasteful $18 million expenditure for 20th Century Fox.

UI graduate and Iowa native Paul Rust plays the male lead, the nerdy Denis Cooverman. While giving a rather cruel valedictorian speech — he “outs” his best friend in the process — Denis very awkwardly has an attack of word vomit and admits his obsessive love for the school’s head cheerleader, Beth Cooper (portrayed by “Heroes” star Hayden Panettiere).

What unfolds is an entirely predictable chain of events — for one night, Beth and her friends give Denis and his best buddy Rich (Jack Carpenter) the, uh, “time of their lives.” Chased by Beth’s cokehead military boyfriend all over town, the recent high-school graduates attempt to buy alcohol illegally, crash a house party, break into the high school, and go to a cabin in the woods to watch the sun rise.

In what was probably intended to be a (very) poor man’s Superbad, I Love You, Beth Cooper shamefully portrays the now-popular Nerd-Hot Girl Paradigm littered through recent teen flicks.

The incredibly intelligent Nerd has the opportunity to teach the Hot Girl a valuable lesson about herself during the short time they spend together, and she rewards him with the possibility of a romantic relationship somewhere down the line.

Each character is exacerbated, yet not enough to be a full-on caricature, which would have made the movie slightly more tolerable. For instance, the school’s principal, a 30-something total fox named Dr. Gleason, seems slightly off, with her comments on Rich’s questionable sexuality and her own breast insecurities. The audience can’t tell if she’s a drunk, a weirdo, a hater, or just maybe a lonely bitch, but it’s doubtful that all the blame can fall at the feet of the actress’ skills. The script is just that poor.

On the subject of sexuality, the overriding and secondary theme — is Rich gay or not gay? — grates on the nerves after five minutes of dialogue. Yes, they made him a movie buff and a drama geek, gave him old-school Gene Kelly kicks and a fedora, and they have him make awkward penis references and flirt with a feminine side of his persona. Entirely expected and utterly insulting, Beth’s girlfriends decide to test his sexuality by helping him lose his virginity in a threesome.

The formulaic story line gives the actors less than nothing to work with throughout the film. While they all deliver solid performances, they still ended up as flat characters in a bad movie, and they will forever be immortalized on IMDb as part of a project that should never have been made in the first place.

So why the one-star rating? Because Panettiere is very nice to look at for 102 minutes.

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