On his graduation day, nerdish valedictorian Denis Cooverman (Rust) goes for broke and declares to his class that he loves beautiful if snobbish cheerleader Beth Cooper (Panettiere), setting off a chain of events that will lead him on the wildest night of his life…
When I Love You, Beth Cooper landed on Chris Columbus’ desk, his eyes must have lit up. Here was a story in which an innocent event sparks off a wild adventure that unfolds over one evening — you know, like his screenplay for Gremlins, or The Goonies, or his endearing if slight directorial debut, Adventures In Babysitting. And here was a story that relied almost entirely on a young cast — you know, like Columbus’ Harry Potter movies, or the Home Alone flicks. In fact, it must have looked like the kind of material Columbus could knock out in his sleep. Sadly, it looks like he did, for I Love You, Beth Cooper is a lifeless, joyless farrago; an unwelcome, pulsating zit on the face of the teen-movie genre.Of course, Columbus has never quite shown the talent as a director that he did as a writer — with hindsight, his Harry Potter entries look like chaste museum pieces — but it’s still a shock to see how flat several of the scenes are here, how languorous the pacing, how stunningly unfunny the whole thing is. At one point there’s a scene where somebody steps in cow dung, for God’s sake. Six billion years of evolution, and it’s come to this.It doesn’t help, of course, that Alan Ruck, aka the legendary Cameron from Ferris Bueller's Day Off, plays Denis’ dad, showing up every now and again like the Ghost Of Better Teen Movies Past. Or that it’s a curiously chaste affair — a threesome happens off-screen, tampons are used to stop nosebleeds — that feels curiously unsure of itself, as if Columbus wants to take that extra step into slightly raunchier, Risky Business-style material, but just can’t bring himself to.Amongst all this disappointment there’s one bright spot: until the bland Panettiere shows up and drags the film into wild and crazy plotland, Paul Rust, who’s a dead ringer for a young Sean Penn in Fast Times At Ridgemont High, has an easy, affable chemistry with the likable Jack T. Carpenter, as his best friend.In fact, their early banter generates a few chuckles, even if Carpenter has been saddled with both a character arc (is he or isn’t he gay?) that is treated so simplistically that it might offend even Bruno, and a character tic (he constantly quotes movie dialogue, complete with the film name, director and year of release) thats so annoying you want to say, “This has all been just a big mistake.” Adventures In Babysitting, Chris Columbus, 1987. Another teen movie that’s better than I Love You, Beth Cooper...
Painfully unfunny, I Love You, Beth Cooper is more likely to elicit the opposite reaction.