“I Love You, Beth Cooper’

By Robert W. Butler
McClatchy Newspapers
“You know, this is not fun any more,” our bloodied and beaten young protagonist complains about an hour into “I Love You, Beth Cooper.”
We’re way ahead of you, pal.
Filmmakers have so long exploited the all-night post-graduation carouse (check out “Dazed and Confused” or “Say Anything …”) that if you’re going to use it you’d better bring something new to the table.
“Beth Cooper” doesn’t.
In the opening minutes of this stillborn comedy, the nerdy class valedictorian uses his one moment in the spotlight to declare his love for the cheerleader who doesn’t know he exists despite having sat in front of him in every class since seventh grade.
“I have loved you from behind,” declares Denis Cooverman (Paul Rust) to a stunned Beth Cooper (“Heroes” hottie Hayden Panettiere ).
That’s about the funniest thing in the film.
Turns out Beth is tired of her pumped-up ROTC boyfriend, Kevin (Shawn Roberts), and so with two party-hearty gal pals (Lauren Storm, Lauren London) she decides to spend graduation night with Denis and his sexually confused best friend, Rich (Jack Carpenter).
Hot on their tails, though, is Kevin and his fascist thug buds.
Just as predictable as the car chases, drunken parties and brawling is the inevitability that dweeby Denis will learn something about himself and women and that the gorgeous blonde(who of course is secretly insecure) will respond to his brainy sincerity.
John Hughes has much to answer for.
I’ve never found director Chris Columbus (“Home Alone,” “Mrs. Doubtfire,” the first two Harry Potters) particularly inspired, but he’s usually competent. Here he seems to have forgotten everything he ever knew about comedy.
The troubles start with the casting. Rust is only 28, but he has the hangdog look of a 50-year-old plumbing salesman. Charisma is not his strong suit.
Neither is comedy. His every emotion is expressed so broadly that “Beth Cooper” looks like an extended Benny Hill routine.
The other problem is Larry Doyle’s screenplay, based on his novel. He may be an Emmy winner for his writing for “The Simpsons,” but Doyle does little here but recycle cliches that were tired 20 years ago.

I Love You Beth Cooper
1 1/2 stars
Director: Chris Columbus
Cast: Paul Rust, Hayden Panettiere
Rated: PG-13 for crude and sexual content, language, some teen drinking and drug references, and brief violence
Running time: 1:40

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