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Arts & Entertainment

Most will loathe you, ‘Beth Cooper’

FRIDAY, JULY 10, 2009

Oh, to have teenage kids just so I could forbid them to see “I Love You, Beth Cooper.”

A miscast and misjudged graduation-night comedy, “Cooper” occasionally – only occasionally – wanders into “harmless.”

Much of the time it’s sending bad messages about, oh, driving without your lights on after dark, using sex to score beer and letting peer pressure determine your sexuality.

Let’s state emphatically that America’s teens are too smart to do most of those things. Let’s also state they probably won’t find much to laugh at in this emphatically unfunny comedy from director Chris Columbus, the guy who owes his career to “Home Alone.”

Paul Rust is the charmless, uncharismatic lead, Denis, a nerd who uses his valedictory speech to tell his classmates what he really thinks of them.

That girl he has lusted for, but never ever spoken to? She (Hayden Panettiere) gets his punch line: “I love you, Beth Cooper.”

She is flattered, and over the course of a long and tedious graduation night, Denis and his pal Rich (Jack Carpenter), whom he outed in his speech, follow Beth and her friends as she drives her Yaris like a long lost Andretti, flees her maniacal military boyfriend and knocks herself off the pedestal Denis put her on.

The reason this was made was to escort young Panettiere from “cutie” to “hottie.” But did they need the lame cocaine jokes, the military bashing, the parents (Alan Ruck, Cynthia Stevenson) playing hide-the-vibrating-cell-phone?

The woebegone Rust, the poor man’s McLovin, is ill-suited for this in so many ways that you don’t even have to get into his appearance – no timing, no sparkle, zero chemistry with Panettiere.

At least this should quickly become one of those blips on her resume, a “Leprechaun” for the New Jennifer Aniston to roll her eyes about on Conan’s couch a few years down the road.


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