Perhaps the best thing that can be said about "I Love You, Beth Cooper" is that the title is correctly punctuated. Beyond that, the movie is a disappointingly flabby teen flick that reaches for (and spectacularly fails to grasp) both the effective sincerity of a John Hughes film and the irresistible humor of "Superbad." A stern slap on the wrist is due to director Chris Columbus (also responsible for the vastly superior "Mrs. Doubtfire" and the first two Harry Potter films).
"Beth Cooper" begins on graduation day at Buffalo Grove High School, where one nerdtastic Denis Cooverman (Paul Rust) is delivering the valedictory address. After Denis declares his long-harbored love for blond it-girl Beth Cooper (Hayden Panettiere), he returns home with his token gay-ish friend (Jack T. Carpenter) for a post-grad soiree.
The boys' night of raucous adventuring kicks off when Beth and her two girlfriends show up, with Beth's truly terrifying boyfriend in hot, homicidal pursuit. We follow the teens on a long day's journey into a night of unlikely friendship, flirting, tentative threesomes and underage beer consumption. It's teen-movie business as usual: Girls are never intentionally funny, and the boy will get the hottie if he can (respectfully) convince her that she shouldn't sleep with people who don't respect her.
"Beth Cooper" trails along like an extended piece of improv, delving frequently into pockets of weirdly scary teen-on-teen violence and spending far too little time on the brand of lifestyle voyeurism that so often makes high school movies eerily addictive. Panettiere has plenty of teen starlet pizzazz, and Rust is a fine physical comedian, but these actors' talents -- like the characters they play -- get oh-so-unfortunately wasted.
-- Ruth McCann (July 10, 2009)
Contains crude and sexual content and language, teen drinking and drug references, and brief violence.