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Movie Review: I Love You Beth Cooper

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He may love you, Beth Cooper, but the audience likely won't. Marred by bad acting, an unoriginal premise and characters that are no more interesting than card-board cut-outs, I Love You Beth Cooper feels like one of those upteenth straight-to-DVD sequels of American Pie or Bring it On that have been beaten to death yet still keep getting churned out by the studio. Except this one has no franchise to stand on and will likely find itself in the 99 cents bin at Big Lots. It is so over the top bad that at times it feels like a spoof of the genre.

What's even more upsetting is that this poor excuse for a movie was directed by Chris Columbus, the guy who wrote such classics as Goonies and Gremlins and directed money-makers like Home Alone and two films in the Harry Potter franchise. If the saying that "you're only as good as your last picture" holds true, then Columbus should be placed in "director's jail" indefinitely. Now if Cooper was a first effort by a kid straight out of film school he might get a free pass, but from Columbus this is just inexcusable.

The film begins when high school valedictorian Denis Cooverman (Paul Rust) blurts out to the entire gymnasium that he's had a crush on cheerleader Beth Cooper (Hayden Panettiere) for six years. She's never noticed him before but after that declaration Beth and her two cheerleading friends (known as The Trinity) show up at Denis' house that evening where he's hanging with his best friend Rich (Jack T. Carpenter). In no time at all, Beth's jealous military boyfriend Kevin (Shawn Roberts) shows up with his army buddies and a night of car chases, car crashes, cow-tipping, beer-drinking, house parties and locker room showers ensue.

For a teen-geared movie, the violence Kevin inflicts is a little extreme -- it's amazing that not a single character ever thinks to call the police or get a restraining order against him. There's no motivation as to why Beth chooses to date the guy or why Kevin feels compelled to go after the physically inferior Denis like some pre-programmed Terminator. It's also inexplicable that on the last night of high school when the entire school is partying together, the three popular cheerleaders choose to spend an evening with a nerd they've never said two words to their entire lives.

Panettiere's Beth is neither very bitchy, nor super-sweet so viewers cannot decide if they are supposed to like her or hate her. It's puzzling as to why Denis harbored a crush on her all these years because it's never clear what qualities she has or what actions she's taken to earn this type of devotion from him. For a guy who was made valedictorian, it's hard to respect him for liking her. When Denis finally realizes Beth's not all that, it's a little too late as the audience has been way ahead of him and has pretty much mentally left the building by this point.

Panettiere -- one of the more popular characters on television's Heroes -- is certainly a capable actress but her choice for Beth Cooper as a hiatus project is puzzling. Was there handsome pay involved to be the only 'name' actor in the film? Was it the opportunity to finally play a lead role after working as part of an ensemble in movies all these years? Was it to briefly showcase some suggestive nudity to prove that this child actress is all grown up? Or was it the opportunity to work with Columbus on the chance that his hit-and-miss magic touch would strike gold at the box-office? Whatever the answers may be, none of them are likely to advance her feature film career -- or anybody else's here.