I Love You Beth Cooper
PG-13
Entertainment: +1
Acceptability: -4

Paul Rust, Hayden Panettiere, Lauren Storm, Alan Ruck. Comedy. Written by Larry Doyle. Directed by Chris Columbus.

FILM SYNOPSIS: I Love You Beth Cooper chronicles the story of a nerdy valedictorian who proclaims his love for the most popular girl in school during his graduation speech.  Much to his surprise, Beth shows up at his door that very night with her two gal-pals and decides to show him the best night of his life.

PREVIEW REVIEW: Boys in their early teen years tend to fall for the older woman, usually the senior head cheerleader. In my case, it was Linda Etling, a blond, blue-eyed homecoming queen I couldn’t wait to see on Fridays, because she wore her cheerleading uniform the way it should be worn. I’ll go no further with that description. Suffice it to say, I worshipped Linda Etling from a far. We shared a study class together though never spoke. In my tenth-grade wisdom, I knew that goddesses on pedestals should not be spoken to, nor should they speak, lest they shatter their goddess-like standing. All that to say, I could relate to the lead in the film. Well, except that the film’s lead is a dork. I was more like David Niven.

Hayden Panettiere is perfect casting for head cheerleader. (Though she’s no Linda Etling.) And I can see why she chose the role, for her character is three-dimensional – funny, sincere and conflicted. Paul Rust, the male lead, on the other hand, can play dorky way too easily, but shows little charisma. That may work for the character, but his lack of charm or mystique tends to leave us hoping for the quick return of Ms. Panettiere – or any of the other characters, for that matter.

Considering the director, Chris Columbus (Adventures in Babysitting, Home Alone, and a bunch of the Harry Potter films), I was hoping for a Ferris Bueller sensibility. And I admit, from time to time, matters of life are addressed. Unfortunately, the film is more miss than hit. In his efforts to strike harmonious chords between scenes of teen buffoonery and those with a more adult resound, the director plays the “quiet” moments too solemnly. There are moments of tedium where it feels as if energy has been sucked out of the room.

And then there’s the content. I suppose if I would have heard Linda Etling use the s-word with the same frequency as Ms. Panettiere does here, or profane God’s name as often as most of the characters do in this film, I probably wouldn’t remember her so fondly. It’s crude and offensive when a man uses such language. It’s classless when a goddess does.

The characters, except for the lead, who has a close-knit relationship with mom and dad, gripe about their parents in typical teen comedy fashion, here suggesting that several are abused at home in one way or another. When the teens search for a radio station, the female lead scoffs at hearing an evangelist proclaiming Christ. And considering that drinking and sex are done with casualness, the film suggests that none of the characters have formed their ideas of right and wrong from Sunday school teachings.

It’s not a horrible film. Certainly Ms. Panettiere will survive it nearly unscathed. It’s just not a very good film. It’s irreverent, sluggishly paced, and morally ambivalent. (Well, the kind of morality that reflects a respect for our Creator, anyway.)

DVD Alternative: Dancer, Texas Pop. 81. This engaging comic drama from 1998 concerns four graduating high school chums set to leave their teeny, tiny town due to a vow they made in grade school. Good technical aspects, fine performances by unknown cast, and it is a pleasure to see a film about teens without the usual crudity, exploitation and profane language. PG (a few mild expletives & 1 obscenity, but no misuse of God’s name; muted sexual innuendo as a ne’er-do-well father brings home a date, but no sex scenes). Hard to find, but worth the effort.

To read about or order Phil Boatwright's new book, MOVIES: THE GOOD, THE BAD, AND THE REALLY, REALLY BAD, go to our Home Page.

Preview Reviewer: Phil Boatwright
Distributor: 20th Century Fox

Summary
Crude Language: A few crude sexual remarks and several innuendoes; a couple of crude references to the female body, or someone calling a girl the b-word.
Obscene Language: Around 20 obscenities, mostly the s-word, with the f-word making a one-time appearance.
Profanity: The lead’s father, the lead himself and Ms. Panettiere each use God’s name followed by a curse. And more than once from the teens.
Violence: A bully beats up the lead – this is played for laughs; a jolting shot has the lead hit by a car – again this is played for laughs, but it’s jarring. Blood: Some blood from the wounds the lead receives.
Sexual Intercourse: One boy and two girls in bed, more than implying that they’ve just had sex; the girls lure the lead and his best friend into the school showers, implying sexual activity will soon commence; they are interrupted by the bully.
Nudity: We see the lead girl open her towel to entice the lead; she later drops the towel as she enters the shower – we see her from behind and a quick shot of her from the side.
Homosexual Conduct: A running joke is made of the lead’s best friend, who may or may not be gay; the gay lifestyle is embraced.
Sexually Suggestive Action/Dialog: Several adolescent sexual discussions and it is implied that several characters have had sex with someone on a first date.
Drug Abuse: The teens buy beer, she kisses the store employee in order to get the beer; alcohol is consumed a couple of times.
Other: None
Running Time: 95 minutes
Intended Audience: Teens

Copyright Preview Family Movie Review (www.previeoOnline.org)