Saturday, July 14, 2012

Mediocrity Kills The Charmless I Love You, Beth Cooper.

The Good: Moments of performance, One or two laughs
The Bad: Not funny, Entirely predictable, Clunky acting
The Basics: Disappointing for its lack of chemistry or charisma in any of its characters, I Love You, Beth Cooper is a waste of time, attention, and money.

In the last year, as I have stepped up my reviewing to take on every possible thing I feel I can write about and become more generally useful as a reviewer by getting into every possible movie I am able, I have had a few surprises. There have been pleasant surprises, like how good Star Trek (reviewed here!) turned out to be and occasionally, I come across a teen romantic comedy that actually surprises me with its quality. The last time I recall that happening was with Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist (reviewed here!) which was far better than I went into it thinking it could or would be. Alas, though, such pleasant surprises are few and far between these days. There is perhaps no greater proof of that than I Love You, Beth Cooper.

For Summer Blockbuster Season 2009 came I Love You, Beth Cooper, a particularly lackluster romantic coming-of-age comedy that loses all of its charms after the first ten minutes. The remainder of this one hour, forty minute snoozefest is predictable, obvious and unchallenging with almost no laughs, no real surprises and nothing to recommend it to serious cinephiles looking for even a summer escape movie.

As part of his valedictorian speech, Denis Cooverman declares his love for the most popular girl in school, Beth Cooper, while taking potshots at her college aged boyfriend. Despite her initial embarrassment, Beth finds the charm in the moment and decides not to be punishing to Denis. As her boyfriend, Kevin, vows for blood, Denis and Beth part ways. But that night, Beth arrives at Denis's house and offers to show him the night of his life. He eagerly accepts and Denis accompanies Beth, Cammy, and Treece out on the town.

After that, the movie degenerates into pointless vignettes involving driving fast, showering, and Denis being menaced by Kevin. Yes, this is another one of those movies that if you've seen the trailer you've seen the film. There is nothing shocking, compelling or titillating in the movie that did not make it into the preview trailer which has been before virtually every comedy this season. And unlike other comedies this summer that have had elements worth recommending, I Love You, Beth Cooper has no charm, no flame, no unique properties that make it worth seeing in theaters or even worth checking out when it comes out on DVD.

In addition to having a very mild PG-13, entirely for language and talk about sex as opposed to on-screen sex or nudity, I Love You, Beth Cooper is lacking in anything worth recommending in terms of plot or character development that sets this apart from any other "geek goes for the girl" story. We've seen this type movie before and the only ones that are worth remembering all have some element that make them unique or interesting. I Love You, Beth Cooper instantly shoots its proverbial load, though, by exchanging any meaningful potential between Beth and Denis for the canned Kevin wants Denis dead idea and Beth spending her time toying with the geek.

As a result, the sense of teen melodrama is high in the scenes involving Denis and Kevin and the sense of play between Beth and Denis is remarkably low. The killer here is in the lack of originality or even chemistry. Beth is accompanied by her obvious sidekicks who are more types than actual characters. Beth is the leader, flanked by the dip and the promiscuous friend, surviving entirely on her place in the social order of high school, which is now dissolving around her. Rather than enjoy the last night as the reigning queen of her particular kingdom, she turns toward the future and Denis.

Here the movie flops hard; Beth and Denis have almost nothing in common and what's worse, actress Hayden Panettiere (Cooper) and actor Paul Rust (Denis) have no on-screen chemistry. That's none. Zero. Zip. Nada. Alan Ruck and Cynthia Stevenson have greater on-screen chemistry as Denis's parents in their brief scenes than Panettiere and Rust have in their hours of time together sharing the screen. Of course, Ruck and Stevenson are both adults . . . and they're funny. Rust is tragically unfunny, capturing only the look of the idealized geek for the movie. Rust has no sense of comic timing and his deliveries of awkward responses to Panettiere's Beth fall flat with no zest or spark. The delays after his lines to accommodate for laughter are entirely unnecessary.

As for Panettiere, she is adequate-at-best as Beth. Director Chris Columbus either set out to make a PG-13 film or was compelled to by actors who did not want to push this movie into being the next teen sex romp flick people would allude to for years. As such, much of Panettiere's performance often involves her simply strutting forward in a tight shirt and skirt, which was pretty much what the actress gave viewers from her earliest performances in the first season of Heroes (reviewed here!). The real difference between Panettiere's Heroes role is that she is given the opportunity to play with her sex appeal as opposed to put it on the backburner for plot-convenient elements. This offers her an acting challenge, but here all she does is pretty much make explicit the tease of the current teen generation's wet dream fantasy of Panettiere from her Heroes role. She is not given the chance to actually branch off her acting ability to be funny or more compelling in ways that she has not already done for audiences. And if you've seen the trailers from theaters, you've seen all of Panettiere that you're going to - in terms of skin - in this movie.

At the end of the day, this is a remarkably average film that is sucked into below average territory because it is not funny. Anyone who has seen a teen romantic comedy with an underdog character would instantly catch every conceit here and figure the ending well before it comes. And lacking spark or believable chemistry between the two leads, I Love You, Beth Cooper just becomes another cinematic scribbling in the margin of a loose-leaf binder that gets dumped out of the film locker at the end of the school year.

For other works with Alan Ruck, be sure to check out my reviews of:
Spin City - Season Three
Spin City - Season Two
Spin City - Season One
Star Trek: Generations


For other film reviews, be sure to check out my Movie Review Index Page for an organized listing!

© 2012, 2009 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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