Rated PG-13 for crude and sexual content, language, some teen drinking and drug references, and brief violence, 102 minutes
Don't expect much and you may enjoy the silly "Beth Cooper"
A little advice if you happen to go see the new teen romantic comedy "I Love You, Beth Cooper": lower your expectations and you may have a good time. A silly cheese ball of a movie with some entertaining, goofy moments, the younger set will enjoy it while adults may simply tolerate it. The slight premise is borrowed and unoriginal (think "Sixteen Candles" meets a PG-13 rated "American Pie"), but the young leads are charming and it benefits from a talented, experienced director.
During his graduation speech, nerdy valedictorian Denis Cooverman (Paul Rust) becomes overwhelmed with honesty and proclaims his love for the hot, popular cheerleader Beth Cooper ("Heroes" Hayden Panettiere). This doesn't sit well with her older, psychotic and muscular boyfriend Kevin (Shawn Roberts), who's now out to kill him. In spite of that, Denis and best buddy Rich Munsch (Jack Carpenter) proceed with having a graduation party that they've invited Beth to. Beth shows up and ends up showing the boys a night they'll never forget.
"Beth Cooper" is energetic, fun with some hearty laughs, even if its story lacks poignancy and authenticity. Based on a novel by Larry Doyle who also wrote the screenplay, it heavily channels John Hughes (Alan Ruck - forever known as Cameron from "Ferris Bueller" - is Denis' father) and draws its characters one-dimensionally and into stereotypes, not to mention that some elements are a little over-the-top - after all - crashing through walls with microwaves and cars isn't exactly real life. Yet even as ridiculous as it often is, it works due to two things: the charming leads and a talented director.
"Heroes" star Hayden Panettiere is a gorgeous ingenue who bears the film's title, but it's lanky newcomer Paul Rust (seen later this summer in "Paper Heart" and in the fall in Tarantino's "Inglourious Basterds") who carries the movie in a breakout performance. With distinct features (large nose) and a wiry frame, he gives a malleable, amiable turn that's the heart of the film. Just as good is Carpenter as best friend Munsch, a movie geek who may or may not be gay with the film's most memorable scene towel whipping the bad guys. Though Rust and Carpenter demonstrate solid comedic chops and are a game team, they're a little too old (mid/late 20's) to be playing teens.
In addition, "I Love You, Beth Cooper" wouldn't be near as memorable if it weren't for director Chris Columbus - yes, that Chris Columbus, of "Home Alone" and the first two "Harry Potter" films, who seems an odd choice for this very modestly budgeted film. He's done better before and sometimes has an unnecessary, mean-spirited view of comedy (how often does the main character have to get beat up or hit?) but his sure hand keeps the film flowing with energy.
Even with the story's weak points, "Beth Cooper" manages a braver ending than most in this genre and you'll still leave with a big smile on your face. Also, don't miss the credits to see cast and crew in their graduation photo. Enjoyable, harmless fun, "I Love You, Beth Cooper" will please the younger set and is a solid alternative to the excessively loud "Transformers 2" or the profanely unsuitable "Bruno."