I Love You, Beth Cooper
starring Paul Rust, Hayden Panettiere, Jack. T. Carpenter, Lauren London, Lauren Storm, Alan Ruck, Cynthia Stevenson
written by Larry Doyle based off his book "I Love You, Beth Cooper"
Fox Atomic, 104 mins., Rated
Pretty Frakkin' Good
Hayden Panettiere is hot, thus Andy buys ticket to see her movie. Hayden Panettiere is hot.
For that reason, and because the premise sounded too good to pass up, I saw I Love You, Beth Cooper, yet another one of those "teenager grows up and lives in one night" type pictures, most recently seen in last year's Nick & Nora's Infinite Playlist. Although lacking in originality (aside from the opening speech, which I found absolutely delicious), it's the characters and their strong interactions that make this movie recommendable and worthwhile.
Socially awkward but Valedictorian Denis Cooverman (Rust) professes his love to Beth Cooper (Panettiere) during his high school graduation speech. Amused by his confession, Beth and her friends Teresa (Storm) and Cameron (London) bring him and his bud Rich (Carpenter) along for a night of fun in their life of just hanging out and being crazy. Aside from that, they also need to escape Beth's jealous hunky cheating boyfriend Kevin who wants nothing more than to beat the snot out of Denis; but hey, everyone's having a merry, jolly good time, and along the way, they get to know each other better and through one night, they also confront the reality of life after high school.
A pretty solid story that doesn't really hold much in the way of surprises, what really anchors a flick like this is the journey the characters take from Point A) where they are in the beginning, to Point Z) where they end up. Have they changed as people? Have they come to terms with a problem that has been bugging them? Y'know, actual bloody character development. Well, the nice thing about Beth Cooper is that the movie successfully fills in the running time without feeling too long with many funny gags and moments of absolute craziness (not to mention kudos to the geek universe, with such geek-inspired moments like Denis taking out his Master Replicas Luke Skywalker Return of the Jedi lightsaber), but lacks development for its central character, Denis himself.
Sure, Denis is a little more open to people by the film's conclusion, and experienced a life he never knew in high school, and actually got to converse with the girl he's been daydreaming about for ages, but I don't feel that his character actually grew substantially. A rebuttal to this could be the opening scene, in which Denis pretty much tells people off, saying everything face value; it's a moment of taking a stand that's extremely admirable, and I kinda wanted to clap for the guy and give him a standing ovation. But after this moment of power, he resorts back to his introverted self. Baby steps...I guess I can deal. Beth, on the other hand, begins the night as her normal self, and through Denis' dorkiness, 'cuteness', and, well, kindness I guess, she opens up to him and reveals herself. And as the cheerleader captain who lived the life in high school, she needs to confront what life will be outside the school walls. The what's next. Beth's friends are, more or less, background characters. Rich simply needs to find out if he's gay or not, but he does have an awesome moment in which he deals with being picked on as a kid with a fiery vengeance that's completely entertaining to watch.
As far as honesty goes, I actually think Sex Drive depicted teenagers more accurately (although this is far, far, far superior to ABC Family's Secret Life of the American Teenager, who basically promote the series as as close to teenagery as you can get without, y'know, being a teenager). Denis and Rich act very much like teenage stereotypes, never forming their own identity. This could quite very well be intentional, or the writer felt that he wanted to have the main character hit all the nerd stereotypes and work from there. But honestly, I just found Denis annoying. One scene in particular, when he's getting pounded on by Beth's boyfriend at a party, he does nothing. Zilch. The kids in Drillbit Taylor took more initative than this kid! Perhaps I'm expecting too much. Its like the kid doesn't want to change, despite his comments to the contrary. It's frustrating because the movie's supposed to be about him opening up, so I would at least hope Denis would think, 'why the frak not?', and try to defend himself!
Alright, momentary agitation is soo over...
The only other thing aside from the ginormous age difference between the cast and the characters (they may be in their twenties, but there's plenty of them, including Rust, who look like they're nearing freakin' forty) is the improbability of many of the situations the characters find themselves in, and their resolutions. At one point, a character drives a giant truck into a super expensive house, and leaves without any incident or legal problamo. Perhaps this all occurs in offscreenville?
I Love You, Beth Cooper had all the ingredients to be a rather heart-warming, spectacular coming-of-age teen comedy/drama, but aside from a few sprinkled moments here and there that don't really come off too convincing, the movie relies more on the hilarious jokes and situations than the heart of the story. And c'mon - they could totally have hired an actor that looked remotely close to a teenager, not someone lookin' in their forties, mate. But hell - I still enjoyed my time at the theater, despite the back of my head telling me I coulda wrote and directed this movie better...uh, and on that note, see I Love You, Beth Cooper!