Movie News & Reviews

'Beth Cooper' latest in nerd gets girl genre

According to popular media, which hasn't yet led any of us astray, theway to emotional health is to always tell everyone else what's on yourmind and in your heart.

For instance, I wish I were eating a maple bar right now and also thatI secretly didn't pay homeless men to write these for me, becausethose guys don't know how to keep their mouths shut and I really can'thandle one more body on my conscience. Or in my basement. I can't evenget down the stairs anymore.

Seriously though, the reason this is a winning strategy is becausewomen love it when you tell them you love them even though you'venever spoken to them before. They can't keep their hands off a man toointimidated to say "Hello." That's why we've got so many "nerd getsgirl" movies like I Love You, Beth Cooper. That, and blatantpandering and wish fulfillment.

-- Times, theaters, trailer.

At his high school graduation, dorkmonster valedictorian Paul Rustdeclares his love for Hayden Panettiere, the girl he's been silentlypining over for years. She takes it pretty well, but brawny militaryboyfriend Shawn Roberts is rather less impressed.

He gets downright homicidal when Panettiere accepts an invitation toRust's graduation party. In the ensuing battle, Rust, Panettiere, andthe various sidekicks they call friends are chased off into the woods,leading to the wildest night of their lives.

But remember, Rust is an 18th-level nerd whose wildest night prior tothis was probably the time he stayed up until midnight drawingSmurfette naked, so don't get your hopes too high. You could blameI Love You, Beth Cooper's tameness on its PG-13rating -- seriously now, we don't go to these movies to not see nakedpeople -- but its problems run deeper than that.

Yeah, like it's not all that funny. Some people will tell you it's notthat important for a comedy to be funny, but when it comes to comediesI am, as in all things, a staunch traditionalist, and I've gotta standfirm on this one.

It's not that its jokes are painful to sit through, it's that they'retoo common and broad to provoke any of those strange seal-noises youhumans call "laughter." Pop quiz: are gags where the hero gets chasedby a cute furry animal a) the cutting edge of hilarity or b) so oldand busted they were getting booed when cave men were painting them oncave walls?

Beth Cooper abounds with such farcical slapstick, making itpretty damn weird that it also spends so much time trying (mainly invain) to create some emotional resonance for its characters. This islikely because of the screenplay being adapted by Larry Doyle from his ownnovel. I'm not very familiar with books -- the only time I see one iswhen I'm tearing it in half to the applause of a room full ofladies -- but I understand they often spend many thousand words makingthe people in them feel real.

Under most circumstances, I'm totally down with that. That's somethingI see and I say "I like this." But it's hard to get into a movie whenit can't decide whether it wants to make you laugh at 'roided-outlunatics hurling kitchen appliances through walls or be takenseriously for its touching stories about the loss of Panetierre'sbrother.

The honest concern for its characters builds a certain amount ofgoodwill that's promptly drop-kicked the next time it makes a laughlessjoke. By the time Beth Cooper's unclimax crawls to a close, itfeels about 20 minutes too late.

Grade: C

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