MOVIE REVIEW- Humor misfire: <i>Beth Cooper</i>'s no fun
People with Tourette syndrome tend to blurt out things– often obscene things– involuntarily. Well, Tourette is human, but what happens in I Love You, Beth Cooper is a sitcom setup.
Paul Rust is giving his valedictory speech at high school graduation when Paul blurts out the movie's title: "I love you, Beth Cooper."
Rust, who doesn't look like he's been near a high school in a decade– he resembles Sean Penn and would be believable as Penn's younger brother but not his son– plays Denis Cooverman, who's been sitting behind Beth Cooper (Hayden Panettiere) in classes since seventh grade ("I loved you from behind," he says); but she's never turned around to notice him. His speech is a premeditated, last-ditch attempt to get her attention before they part, perhaps forever.
For good measure Denis sounds off about all the class stereotypes– the bitch, the bully, etc.– even outing his best (i.e., only) friend, Rich Munsch (Jack T. Carpenter) as gay.
This sets up two story lines: how Denis will get to know Beth and where that will lead, and whether or not Rich is actually gay, which he denies despite what the whole class thinks: "Was it Drama Club? You know, a lot of professional actors aren't gay. More than half." The two plots are almost equally important.
Denis, who actually acts gayer than Rich, is a major nerd, a fount of information who must have committed every textbook to memory. (Rich is that way about movies, a walking IMDb.)
Denis' parents (Alan Ruck, Cynthia Stevenson) are going away for the night so he can have a party, even though no one but Rich is likely to show up. Denis invites Beth, and, for what begins as revenge on the nerd, she arrives with two girlfriends, Cammy (Lauren London) and Treece (Lauren Storm).
The girls are tracked there by Beth's military boyfriend, Kevin (Shawn Roberts) and his buddies, who do things to the house they wouldn't get away with in Iraq. The girls flee with Denis and Rich, both of whom fall from the second floor and land on their backs, which should leave them paralyzed if there were any reality going on here.
From then on I Love You, Beth Cooper is a road movie, making the usual stops and a few unusual ones in search of a night of risky pleasure. (The naked-girls-in-the-gym scene is so Porky's, Bob Clark, 1982, as Rich would say.) There are some chuckles along the way, but most of the humor misfires, as do the serious scenes.
Panettierre deserves some kind of award for even suggesting Beth might get interested in Denis, but someone should have given her an honest answer when she asked if the dress she wears through most of the movie makes her look fat.
Rust, a cross between DJ Qualls and Adrien Brody, should not count on a career as a romantic leading man. There's one scene where he has a bloody nose and the girls give him tampons to absorb the blood when he's got room for maxipads. He can probably be funny with a good script, so with his resemblance to Sean Penn he should go after the role Penn dropped out of in The Three Stooges.
Directed by Chris Columbus and based on the novel by Larry Doyle, "I Love You, Beth Cooper" is the kind of cheap genre movie the Fox Atomic label was created for, then cancelled. It aims low but still doesn't score. Perhaps it's best summed up by this exchange:
Denis: This is not fun anymore.
Beth: Who said it's supposed to be fun?