A while back, I was reading an appraisal of trailers for teen films – an appraisal given by teens. They were unanimous in their dismissal of the trailer for I Love You, Beth Cooper, for which they summed their disdain with the phrase, “This would never happen.” They were, of course, completely missing the point. Of course this would never happen. It’s precisely because this would never happen that the movie got made. It’s a wish-fulfillment fantasy not-so cleverly disguised as a teen comedy. It was made for every high school student who crushed on the head cheerleader or varsity quarterback but didn’t show up on their radar – not even as the tiniest blip.
Taken for it what is, I Love You, Beth Cooper is a reasonably decent movie. The laughs aren’t exactly omnipresent, but there are a few good ones and more than a few smiles. When valedictorian Denis Cooverman [Ron Rust] says all the things he never said during his time in high school, he’s speaking for all of us who never got the chance to say them when we were in high school. Fortunately, in our imaginations we never went through the trials visited on him by those he rebuked in his speech – just as we know that our Beth Coopers would never have deigned to take the time to discover that we actually were cool [mostly because we weren’t].
Director Chris Columbus used to be an A-list director, but – even though it’s fairly amusing – I Love You, Beth Cooper is not going to be his key to that list. For one thing, there are too many dead spots where gags have been run into ground; missteps with the drama or places where what should have been poignant come across as labored. And, let’s face it, asking to believe Beth would kiss Denis is one thing. Asking us to believe she’d kiss him three times? Not so much. [It is a lovely fantasy, though.]
One thing that does help us believe the premise, however briefly, is that the camera loves Hayden Panetierre [Beth], but doesn’t particularly like Rust. Even technology is biased against the poor guy! The camera does love Shawn Roberts [Beth’s abusive boyfriend, Kevin], so when he’s an ass, the contrast between his looks and behavior definitely adds a bit of dimension to both the character and the film.
Alan Ruck and Cynthia Stevenson [as Mr. and Mrs. C] are onscreen briefly, but are still comedic high points – the contrast between Denis’ uptight mom and considerably more relaxed dad make an event later in the film very effective. Lauren Storm and Lauren also score some points as Beth’s BFFs, Treece and Cammy, respectively. Jack Carpenter is almost wasted as Denis’ best friend, Rich – though he gets to play hero for a brief while in a very good sequence involving towels.
Still and all, I Love You, Beth Cooper only works about half the time. That’s not enough to give it a hearty recommendation – except maybe as a rental. I expect it’ll play much better on the small screen.
Final Grade: C+