Saturday, November 28, 2009

I LOVE YOU, BETH COOPER--PG-13 (now playing at home where it's good to have the DVD so you can freeze frame that brief nudity)

Denis Cooverman (Paul Rust) is the the high school class valedictorian and ultimate nerd. Spurred on by his best buddy, Rich, (Jack Carpenter) he throws caution to the wind and professes his love for delectable cheerleader Beth Cooper (Hayden Panettiere) during his graduation speech. Cooper, who has never really noticed him, is shocked, and so is her Neanderthal boyfriend, Kevin, (Shawn Roberts) who subsequently makes it his mission to stalk and beat the crap out of Denis at every turn.

But Beth takes a bit of a shine to Denis--in the way you would if you'd found an abandoned puppy--and brings her two sexpot friends along to a party that Denis and Rich are throwing--just for them, as it turns out. What follows is a wild night of partying, reckless driving, Neanderthals bullying nerds, a titillating scene in the girl's locker room, stepping in cow sh*t, and an encounter with a demonically possessed raccoon. In other words, all the usual things kids do on graduation night.

It is a night of discovery. Denis discovers a Beth Cooper vastly different--and wilder--than the idealized version of her he's had in his head all this time, and must try to reconcile the two before his disillusionment gets the best of him. Rich, whom everyone (except him) believes is gay, discovers which side of the fence he's really on...sort of. And Beth begins to consider what the future might really hold for someone like her, as wild times give way to sobering reflection.

At this point, I Love You, Beth Cooper becomes a sweet coming of age tale--cliched, perhaps, but it sucked me in nevertheless. There are overtones of American Graffiti, American Pie, Revenge of the Nerds, and Porky's here. Just remember it's PG-13, so keep everything in perspective. Though I must say that the line between PG-13 and R-rated films seems to be blurring. It's okay now to use the F-word (at least once) in PG-13, and the kind of suggestiveness you might think would have previously garnered this flick an R designation.

Hayden Panettiere, the cheerleader from the Heroes TV series, will do just fine as long as she continues to play cheerleaders and shows a little skin. I don't know if she's ever been a real cheerleader, but I know I feel cheerier when the camera's on her instead of Rust, who had a lot of balls even BECOMING an actor with that Cyrano de Bergerac mug of his.

There are some good hard-rockin' tunes in I Love You, Beth Cooper--but there's a herky-jerky feel as to where they fall in, and the movie drags in spots. Keep the soundtrack going underneath in some of these scenes and we may convince ourselves that we're pumped up about them anyway.