I Love You Beth Cooper
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I Love You Beth Cooper

 

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My high school experience was radically different from what is typically depicted in movies. I attended a technically oriented school that had an all male student body. This resulted in several profound changes that separated our experience irreconcilable with what traditionally drives high school comedies. For one thing there was less of a caste system at work. We were basically six thousand male geeks walking around the halls with slide rules strapped on our belts. With no girls present there was no male posturing to catch the eye of the popular girls and no groups of young females following their alpha information as they stroll confidently through the hallways. I often mused over how different life would have been if I attended a coed high school. Then when I come across a flick like the one under consideration here, ‘I Love You Beth Cooper’, I am exceptionally thankful I was spared the sexual politics used as the basis of this story. Sure it would have been great to be able to socialize with girls but it did allow us to better concentrate on our education; corny but true. This does permit me to maintain a certain editorial perspective when reviewing the high school based romantic comedies letting considering the proceedings more like a sociologist doing a field study. This perspective helps especially when the movie in question is less than a stellar representative of the cinematic arts. ‘I Love You Beth Cooper’ is one of those high school comedies that are giving the sub-genre a bad reputation. It is evident that there were members of the cast and crew an honest try at doing something worthwhile bur unfortunately the various elements of the production fail to combine properly. There is not much in the way of originality present in high school comedies, they have the tendency to fall into two main categories determined by the cabalistic group known as the MPAA, comedies set in high school are either rated ‘R’ of ‘PG-13’. If the mature ‘R’ is given then the plot is based solely on sex, drug and binge drinking. However if the softer PG-13 is granted as was the case for this film then the conceptual elements of the movie are restricted to alluding to drugs, drinking and teasing the audience with the illusion of sex and nudity. That is the girl is seen undressed but only from the back and the boys may make a comical attempt to purchase alcoholic beverages but little in the way of actual consumption, at least not as overtly or concentrated as found in the ‘R’ flicks.

Denis Cooverman (Paul Rust) is the senior class nerd at his local high school, Buffalo Glenn HS. Typical of the archetype Denis is the best student in his graduating class awarding him the illustrious honor of valedictorian. During his commencement address Denis does the unthinkable inserting a section in his speech professing his love for the most popular girl in the senior class, Beth Cooper (Hayden Panettiere). Beth's boyfriend Kevin (Shawn Roberts) is a jock and school bully ridiculing a girl with an eating disorder and pushing a friend, Rich Munsch (Jack T. Carpenter), into admitting he’s gay. Beth is fed up with his awful behavior but they are the class power couple so for the most part Beth puts up with it. Denis invites Beth and her popular girl pack, Cammy (Lauren London) and Treece (Lauren Storm), to a party. His parents are away and every hopeful has a sizable supply of condoms upstairs. Beth’s power base is established when their attempts to purchase beer is thwarted until Beth is able to trade a kiss for the clerk breaking the law. The cliché teen beauty getting her way with flirtation is nothing new and over done in this movie. It doesn’t take a whole lot of imagination to figure out how the story will progress; Beth learns that looks and popularity aren’t of paramount importance in life while Denis discovers that his dream girl is human after all. There are several strange moments included such as when an attempt at cow tipping results in a stamped or when Beth sees a large poster of herself mounted on the ceiling above Denis’ bed.

For the most part this film was an attempt to cash in on the popularity of Hayden Panettiere especially with teen boys into science fiction and therefore considered part of the nerd demographic. Her central role in the television series ‘Heroes’ was hoped to bring in guys who easily identify with the character of Denis. While the movie was a finical flop unable to recoup the reported $18 million budget it might make some of it in DVD and cable distribution. It did have a well accomplished director with Chris Columbus, having the first two ‘Harry Potter movies and ‘Home Alone’ under his belt. With this flick Columbus was not able to display the stylistic flair that brought him to his currently enjoyed position in the community of filmmakers. The youthful cast does acceptably well playing teenagers although it is pushing the casting just a bit. Panettiere is still playing the perky cheerleader he although after this movie she took on the wise choice of expanding her roles to include parts out of her artistic safe zone. ‘Beth Cooper’ might have done better as a raunchy comedy throwing caution to the wind but in this form feel stunted trying to keep within the confines of the PG-13 guidelines.

Posted 08/18/11

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