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I Love You, Beth Cooper

(2009)  1/2 Pg-13
102 min. 20th Century Fox Distribution. Director: Chris Columbus. Cast: Lauren London, Paul Rust, Lauren Storm, Jack T. Carpenter, Hayden Panettiere.

/content/films/3480/3.jpgThe new teen movie I Love You, Beth Cooper is baffling in a number of ways, but let's start with its director. This is exactly the sort of movie typically directed by someone getting his or her foot in the Hollywood door: formulaic, unchallenging, and disposable stuff on a low-risk low-budget. But it's directed by a Hollywood heavyweight whose resume includes Mrs. Doubtfire, Home Alone, and the first two Harry Potter films. Does Chris Columbus owe somebody a favor?

Okay, assuming you're not so interested in the auteur theory, let's discuss the film's own merits. Adapted by Larry Doyle (The Simpsons) from his own novel, I Love You, Beth Cooper chronicles the grad-night antics of geeky Denis Cooverman (a logy Paul Rust), who has spent his high-school years living solely for academics. Encouraged by best friend Rich Munsch (Jack T. Carpenter), Harvard-bound valedictorian Cooverman uses his speech to call for honesty and day-seizing, demonstrated by his titular annoucement to the school's queen bee cheerleader (Hayden Panettiere). She's embarrassed and flattered, and acting out of curiosity and condescension, Cooper hauls the rest of her hot-girl "Trinity" (Lauren London and Lauren Storm) to Cooverman's pathetic grad-night party, where they turn out to be the only guests.

Except, that is, for Cooper's muscle-bound army-cadet boyfriend Kevin (Shawn Roberts). Enraged by Denis' declaration (and a diet of 'roids, cocaine and speed), the monstrous Kevin throws a microwave through a wall, prompting Denis, Rich, and The Trinity to go on the run. Their night of antics will touch on every teen-movie cliche in the books, as the five teens literally and figuratively disrobe, learning to see each other for whom they really are (the only contemporary spin comes from the question of whether or not Rich is in denial about being gay). I Love You, Beth Cooper self-consciously hearkens back to the oeuvre of John Hughes, king of the '80s teen movie: beside evoking the teen antics of his own Adventures in Babysitting, Columbus casts Ferris Bueller's Alan Ruck as Denis' dad, while Doyle includes an homage to Sixteen Candles. Doyle ups the ante by having Rich rattle off movie references--including year and director--in the most supremely annoying of fashions. Unfortunately, like its insufferably nerdy hero, I Love You, Beth Cooper lacks the charm to which it hopefully pretends.

/content/films/3480/1.jpgNo more likeable, Beth Cooper hardly deserves Denis' appraisal as the "most alive person" he's ever met. She's meant to be sympathetic because she had a brother who died, because nobody has bothered to look behind her image, and because she has no plans beyond a possible stint at a j.c. In truth, she's another reflection of the movie itself: phony, obnoxious and off-putting (despite Panetierre valiantly doing her best sensitive sexpot). Columbus demonstrates a dismaying comedic tone-deafness by attempting to mine laughs primarily from property damage and teenage drunken driving that goes far beyond ordinary recklessness (and I'll plead no comment on the wet-towel fight staged to suggest The Adventures of Robin Hood). The rest is pure formula: teasing titillation (from "The Trinity" flouncing in slo-mo to the regular PG-13 near-nudity), the requisite car singalong ("School's Out"), cow tipping gone awry, and so on and on and on for 106 dismally unpleasant minutes.

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Aspect ratios: 1.85:1

Number of discs: 1

Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1

Street date: 11/3/2009

Distributor: 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment

Blu-ray offers some consolation for those disappointed by I Love You, Beth Cooper. At least the hi-def A/V transfer is technically proficient, representing the film exactly as it appeared in theaters. And the movie's fans will, of course, be very pleased to enjoy the sharp image and maximized DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 sound. Much of the film takes place over the course of an evening, but the black level is strong and detail remains good. That said, clarity and dimensionality certainly spike during the daytime scenes, especially the lakeside climax. No complaints about that lossless soundtrack, which makes the most of the movie's humble surround mix.

The bonus features feature only a glimpse of director Columbus, which is telling. There's an "Alternate Ending" (6:59, HD) that isn't any better than the one in the film, as well as four "Deleted Scenes" (7:36, HD).

"I Love You, Larry Doyle" (5:54, HD) features an interview with author/screenwriter Doyle; Hayden Panetierre, Paul Rust, Jack T. Carpenter, Lauren London and Lauren Storm also show up to sing Doyle's praises.

"We Are All Different, But That's a Good Thing" (8:54, HD) is a chance for the cast to conduct a love-fest about each other. Interviewed are Rust, Panettiere, Carpenter, London, Shawn Roberts, and Storm. The most interesting bit is a discussion of character analyses assigned by Columbus, who is briefly seen and heard at work on the set.

"Peanut Butter Toast" (2:48, SD) is an improvised song by Rust. He's a brave man signing off on this, believe me.

Lastly, the disc rounds up the promo pieces "FOX Movie Channel Presents 'In Character' with Paul Rust" (3:02, SD) and "FOX Movie Channel Presents 'In Character' with Hayden Panettiere" (3:02, SD), as well as Trailers for other Fox titles.

Review gear:
Panasonic Viera TC-P55VT30 55" Plasma 1080p 3D HDTV
Oppo BDP-93 Universal Network 3D Blu-ray Disc Player
Denon AVR2112CI Integrated Network A/V Surround Receiver
Pioneer SP-BS41-LR Bookshelf Speaker (2)
Pioneer SP-C21 Center Speaker
Pioneer SW-8 Subwoofer

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