Sixteen Candles meets Superbad in I Love You, Beth Cooper, a barely adequate teen comedy that borrows so heavily from previous efforts that it seems to have been assembled from the cut scenes and alternate takes of other, better coming-of-age films. Adapted by Larry Doyle from his popular novel of the same name, the terminally clichéd film blows its figurative load in the opening five minutes, and never quite recovers. It's a bit of a shame, too, since the story of a high school kid who hasn't yet peaked is one that many teens can relate to. Unfortunately, most of the time it feels like I Love You, Beth Cooper is simply playing it too straight to be anything other than ordinary, despite the continuing promise of something greater.
Picture the polar opposite of a popular kid, and you've got Denis Cooverman (Paul Rust). Unathletic and socially awkward, he's also, naturally, the class valedictorian. For four long years, Denis has been pining after one girl -- Beth Cooper (Hayden Panettiere). He sat behind her in a number of classes, and even has a poster of her hanging, strategically placed, in his bedroom. Stepping up to deliver his graduation speech, Denis decides to seize the day and declare his love while calling out his fellow classmates for their various peccadilloes. Much to Denis' surprise, Beth admits that she thought the speech was kind of sweet, opening the door for him to invite her to his graduation party. Later that day, Denis and his best friend Rich's (Jack Carpenter) are nearly run down when Beth and her two best friends show up at his house on a lark. But this is only the beginning of the wildest night of Denis' high school career. He's about to go out with a bang, but before he does, he'll learn a little more about himself -- and the girl whom he loves -- in the process. Every dork has his day, and Denis' day has finally arrived.
Take away the admittedly unique plot contrivance that sets the action in motion, and what you're left with is a tiresomely routine coming-of-age comedy that may hold your attention for about ten minutes while you're channel-surfing on a rainy day. Perhaps the source material was too pointed for mainstream consumption, but by the time Denis' illusions have been shattered, he's received his third ass-kicking by Beth's meathead boyfriend (Shawn Roberts, channeling a coked-up, 'roided-out version of Chet from Weird Science), and when his movie-quoting best friend reveals that the "teenager/coming-of-age thing is a relatively new construct," it's all we can do to keep our popcorn from battling its way back up the esophagus and out onto the polluted theater floor. And while I Love You, Beth Cooper does score a few bonus points for creative use of skeleton arms and actually using Alice Cooper's original version of "School's Out" while most contemporary teen films opt for the candy-flavored cover, these few minor plusses are simply too fleeting to merit recommending such a mediocre film. For a teen film to resonate, it has to feel honest, and I Love You, Beth Cooper simply comes off as too paint-by-numbers to achieve any level of emotional authenticity. leave a comment --Jason Buchanan