I Love You, Beth Cooper (20th Century Fox, PG-13)

beth-cooper_sm.jpgFrankly, I was embarrassed to be in the same theater as this thing.

 

 

 

 

 

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A few months back, I read the novel I Love You, Beth Cooper, which was written by longtime Simpsons scribe (and co-writer of The Simpsons Movie) Larry Doyle. While I wasn’t sure it was exactly a work of merit, I had a good old time reading it. At the beginning of every chapter there’s a quote from a classic teen movie (Dazed & Confused, Say Anything, Fast Times at Ridgemont High, etc.), and the book as a whole, while not treading any new ground, felt like it could produce a film of roughly the same caliber as those films it references.

Or so I thought, until I learned that Chris Columbus, my vote for the least talented director in Hollywood (that’s right; he’s worse than Joel Schumacher or Uwe Boll), would be directing the screen adaptation. My spirits remained hopeful when I saw that Doyle adapted his own novel into the screenplay, though. At least some of the fun of the original work had to be maintained, right?

Or so I thought…until I saw the trailer a couple of months ago. Among other things, it featured a surly dude throwing a microwave and it sticking in a wall, a too-old man playing the 18-year-old main character Denis Cooverman (that would be the 27-year-old Paul Rust, who could be on his way to a banner year, as he’s in both the upcoming Paper Heart as well as Inglourious Basterds), and a CGI raccoon baring its teeth at Denis and Beth (Heroes‘ Hayden Panettiere). Still, I reasoned, maybe the trailer wasn’t representative of the actual film. We all know by now that you can’t judge a film’s quality on its trailer; why would ILYBC be any different?

And then I saw the movie. Frankly, I was embarrassed to be in the same theater as this thing. It’s pretty much exactly like the trailer implies—stupid, played broad, totally unlikable—and adds some more travesties to the CGI raccoon list, such as Denis getting hit so hard by a car he goes flying ten feet, but then gets up and walks away as if nothing happened, or a groan-inducing sing-along to Alice Cooper’s "School’s Out" (like Dazed & Confused, Beth Cooper takes place over the span of the last day of school). In addition to being pretty much like the trailer, in all honesty, it’s also pretty much like the book; while there are little differences (in the book Beth touches a gas station attendant’s penis in order to secure the sale of a 12-pack of beer, where in the movie she only makes out with him, and offscreen, at that; there aren’t references to classic teen movies, either, aside from the casting of Ferris Bueller’s Day Off‘s Cameron, Alan Ruck, as Denis’ dad), the majority of the thing is basically just like the book, which pretty well made me hate not only the movie, but the retroactively the book, as well.

If I were 13 years old and had a crush on Panettiere, I probably would have liked this movie. It’s a total wish-fulfillment saga—the premise is that nerd Denis pronounces his love for head cheerleader Beth in his valedictorian speech, which makes her notice him, and a wild night ensues—and watching the film, you can practically hear Columbus’s pervy directions to Panettiere: "Hayden, honey, point your ass at the camera for this scene…" "Okay Hayden, for this scene I need you to lean down in front of the camera, so as to give the audience a good view down the front of your dress. Hey, don’t stand back up! Stay like that for a minute!" | Pete Timmermann

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