Columbus loses his compass with “Beth Cooper”
Chris Columbus has fallen off the edge of the earth. That would be Director Chris Columbus, not the Spanish explorer, whose latest film, “I Love You, Beth Cooper” is a misguided ship sailing among an increasingly rocky body of work. How could the man who directed the first two Harry Potter films (which combined made over a half a billion dollars) put his name on a teenage comedy as unimaginative and unfunny as “I Love You, Beth Cooper”?
Keep in mind, Mr. Columbus also has had a hand in some other bombs like “Christmas with the Kranks,” (it did earn $70 million since it had virtually no competition that season), “Monkeybone,” “Bicentennial Man,” and “Home Alone 2”–which we’ll consider a “push” since he also directed the much better original. Columbus gets the benefit of the doubt on “Rent” and “Mrs. Doubtfire,” both of which had some moments primarily because of the talent involved.
Still, “I Love You Beth Cooper,” which feels like it’s trying to be a PG-13 version of “Superbad” (as awful as that concept sounds), is a new low for him and for everyone involved.
The premise, based on a novel by Larry Doyle (who also wrote the screenplay) features Paul Rust as Dennis Cooverman, who as the Valedictorian of his high school pronounces his love (see title) in front of the entire graduating class. He also outs his best friend Rich (Jack Anderson), and calls out the school bully, the anorexic, and so on. His moment of clarity is not an entirely bad story idea, and ultimately the film attempts to prove that nerds can get the pretty cheerleader (Hayden Panetterie) in the end.
It’s those 90 minutes between the speech and the predictably sentimental finish that offer little more than a frantic night of pratfalls, predictable drinking gags, tired sexual innuendo and almost no wit. When Dennis struggles with the cork on a champagne bottle–we know what’s coming. Cut to a group of the kids tipping cows in a farm and the camera shows a huge pile–we know what’s coming.
The cast is not devoid of talent and Panetterie (TV’s ‘Heroes”) shows some sparkle, and it’s nice to see in this kind of comedy a blonde displaying some self-confidence and not becoming the butt of every joke (as in every Anna Faris comedy).
“I Love You Beth Cooper” is another example of a film with a murky target audience. Not raunchy enough to appease the Judd Apatow fans, and not appropriate for middle schoolers, the film will struggle at the box office. Unfortunately, this is a continuing trend for its disoriented director.
Rated PG-13 for crude and sexual content, language, some teen drinking and drug references, and brief violence.