I Love You, Beth Cooper is a film that belongs to a different, earlier era. It has much more John Hughes in its blood than Judd Apatow, and because of that it feels instantly like a relic. The comedy is physical and over the top while the dialogue plays it straight and refuses to wink at the audience. But besides being a relic it is also something of a novelty, one that impressively provides a boatload of laughs.

Denis (Paul Rust), a terribly awkward all-star nerd and his ambiguously gay friend Richard (Jack Carpenter) are the heroes of this tale. In the opening moments of the film Denis uses his valedictorian speech to profess his love for Beth Cooper (Hayden Panettiere), and to unleash a storm of criticisms on the losers, the jerks, and the anorexics that have made his life miserable. The catharsis must have been awesome, but even better is the series of events that his bold move sets in motion. Beth Cooper is soon showing up at a "party" thrown by Denis and that alone sends her hotheaded, beefcake boyfriend and his coked-up friends into a fit of rage.

I Love You, Beth Cooper works mainly because of the kinetic energy it exudes. Anybody who fondly remembers 2004’s The Girl Next Door will love this movie. The muscle bound boyfriend and his posse chase Denis around small town America (or Canada if we are going off of where it was filmed). At times they attack the roles with such intensity that they threaten to drag the film into the horror genre and occasionally the jokes are brain-dead. We are also dealing with a very juvenile worldview here; condoms are worshipped, girls are feared and actual intercourse is the Holy Grail.

But these are the compromises we are used to making when watching something aimed at a teen and pre-teen audience. Director Chris Columbus is perfectly content to pander to his crowd, though the choice of Panettiere as his flavor of the month is a risky one that pays off. Fans of film have been seeing her grow up on screen over the past 9 years (you remember her in Remember The Titans right?) and now they are being asked to view her as an object of lust. But she’s up to the task and seems to be enjoying herself in the process.

Since Denis and company are on the run all over town they inevitably run into the people who he offended with his speech; the aforementioned losers, jerks, and anorexics (oh the misfortune). This just serves to keep the plot going while Denis has one of those nights found often at the multiplex, where a young boy spreads his wings and ultimately becomes a man. Meanwhile, shallow Beth Cooper learns that maybe dating a guy who likes to throw microwaves through walls isn’t the brightest idea, and that there is more to a man than the size of his biceps.

With these recycled life lessons and the self-inflated importance of it all I Love You, Beth Cooper is straight up Hollywood. It is happy to entice you into the theatre with a chance of seeing Panettiere’s pink bits, a suggestions it of course does not delivers on. There is also destruction for destruction’s sake because Beth Cooper is the worst driver in the world, so if your idea of comedy is stuff getting run over then you should get in line for this one right now. That entire bellyaching aside there is an innocent charm here that has been lost recently in the teen comedy genre. Sure, comedies are better now than they were in the 80’s but sometimes you just want a vintage glass of something familiar.

Starring: Hayden Panettiere, Paul Rust, Jack Carpenter, Lauren London

Director: Chris Columbus

Distributor: Fox Atomic

Runtime: 102 Minutes

Rating: PG-13

 

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