I Love You, Beth Cooper *** (out of ****)

Director: Chris Columbus
Writer: Larry Doyle
Cast: Hayden Panettiere, Paul Rust, Jack Carpenter, Lauren London, Lauren Storm, Shawn Roberts, Jared Keeso, Brendan Penny, Marie Avgeropoulos, Josh Emerson, Alan Ruck, Cynthia Stevenson, Pat Finn
Rating: PG-13 (crude and sexual content, language, some teen drinking and drug references, and brief violence)
Running Time: 102 min
Release Date: 7/10/09

With the characteristics listed that led to its PG-13 rating you might think that I Love You, Beth Cooper would be piece of crap. But, the trailer had hooked me so I checked it our anyway. I was quite pleasantly surprised.

Denis Cooverman (Paul Rust) is the valedictorian of Buffalo Glenn High School. He is obviously a smart kid for in addition to his class standing as he has been accepted into a premed program at Stanford University and he is the captain of the debating team. On the downside he isn’t very good looking, isn’t an athlete, and isn’t very successful with girls. He has had a long time crush on the head cheerleader, Beth Cooper (Hayden Panettiere), but has been too shy to speak to her. Besides she has a boyfriend in the army who perhaps just might be special forces material.

Denis has a very sexually confused friend, Rich (Jack Carpenter), who everyone else thinks is gay. Rich puts Denis up to telling Beth what he really thinks during his valedictory speech. This was clearly out of line. While he is on a roll he also tells what he thinks of everyone else including Beth’s boyfriend who is on leave for the event, the school bully, and the schools rich bitch. Finally he suggests that his Rich embrace his presumed sexuality.

This leads to several reactions the most encouraging for Denis is that Beth speaks to him and “lets him live.” Denis manages to invite her to his graduation party before being assaulted by her very angry boyfriend. Being spared serious bodily harm by the intervention of the school principal, Denis and Rich go home to their party which seems to be only the two them. Then surprisingly Beth with her two sidekicks Cammy (Lauren London) and Treece (Lauren Storm) actually show up to the party. Denis and Rich descend into complete dorkiness and probably the whole incident would have been a joke for the girls. But, then Kevin (Shawn Roberts) and his two army buddies crash the "party" resulting in the two nerds and the three hot girls spending an evening together, mostly on the run from the army guys.

While much of the action is typical of teen flicks, Beth Cooper manages to capture something very special. One begins to realize that Beth’s life as one of the coolest girls in Buffalo Glenn isn’t really all it’s imagined. She is smart enough to realize that it over. While graduation marks the beginning of a upward tend in Denis’s life, it will mark beginning of a downward slope for Beth's. This brought home in a scene in which the girls go back to the school and do their cheerleading routine for the Denis and Rich. Panettiere portrays Beth's sadness convincingly in this scene.

The teen antics are overplayed as is typical in films of this genre. In real life Beth and Kevin would be arrested for the excess depicted. They would be sued for more than they could payoff in a long time as well. But, It’s all in good fun and I’d chalk it up to comedic license. The same goes for the bedroom scene envolving Rich with Cammy and Treece. Perhaps he really isn’t gay after all!

Some have criticized the movie based on the implausibility Beth being temporarily interested in nerdy Denis. However, Beth isn’t stupid even if she is far from the idealized dream girl Denis had long fantasized . Her relationship with Kevin was clearly deteriorating. Perhaps she saw a chance to move up to a future doctor. Cetainly her life the popular girl in high school is over and she knows it. Beth turned out to be quite a bit different than Denis has imagined but the reality had its own merits. But, she really does need to learn to drive safely if she wants to be around for the ten-year reunion!

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