Chris Columbus, how hard we fall. Since directing Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, the director has provided audiences with two brain-numbing pictures: the adaptation of the musical Rent and this year's atrocity, I Love You, Beth Cooper. Based on the novel by Larry Doyle, who subjected audiences to the Ben Stiller travesty that was Duplex, I Love You, Beth Cooper is shockingly one of the worst movies of 2009.
At first glance, it was clear that Beth Cooper wasn't going to be great. A teen comedy about a nerd who, after declaring his love for the head cheerleader during his valedictorian speech at high school graduation, finds himself out on a wild night on the town with the girl - who's willing to give him a chance - there wasn't going to be anything remarkable or unique. That's fine. There'll be some toilet humor, a few sex jokes, a fight with the girl's sleazy ex-boyfriend and a couple laughs, and that'd be it. No harm, no foul.
But I Love You, Beth Cooper is one of the most painful movies in recent memory. It's as if Columbus and Doyle got in a room and conspired on how to make every scene so horribly unfunny just so they could bet on how many people would walk out of the theater partway through - or show up in the first place. The strange thing is that the movie is so close to be something - it just isn't. Things remain off kilter from beginning to end, and Columbus is never able to right the ship.
Beth Cooper's problem is that it tries to emulate other teen comedies without building on them, and without capitalizing on the situations the characters get themselves into. There are coming-of-age elements, teen humor, road trip antics and more, but they're all pulled from more successful comedies. Why does there need to be a stereotypically sleazy ex-boyfriend, or a vicious raccoon, or a main character who is so unrealistic he's impossible to like?
And that's the biggest problem: none of the characters are even remotely believable. Sure, American Pie had an awkward Jason Biggs, as have plenty of other teen comedies before it. But they were at least somewhat believable. Paul Rust is just bad as Denis Cooverman, though he can hardly be blamed when pretty much everyone involved in the picture is embarrassingly bad. When that's the case, you know the problem is the script, not the actors. His best friend, played by Jack Carpenter, is boring and relies on spitting out movie quotes to evoke humor. Beth Cooper's friends are remarkably dull and cringe-inducing to watch. Only Hayden Panettiere is halfway decent, but even she isn't very interesting. At least you get to see half a nipple and a side shot of the left boob, and when that's the best that can be said about a movie, that's not a good sign.
I Love You, Beth Cooper was never going to be great, but no one - not even the filmmakers - probably could have guessed how it was going to turn out. It's not that far from being average, but something is just off about the picture. I Love You, Beth Cooper is one of the worst movies of 2009.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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