Movie review: I Love You, Beth Cooper -- 1 out of 5 stars

Orlando Sentinel Movie Critic

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 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. And 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 "The Trinity" (Lauren London and the hilarious Lauren Storm) as Beth 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?

There is no way to discuss this movie without wondering if there has ever been a more successful awful director than Chris Columbus. The movie was adapted by the fellow who wrote the novel, Larry Doyle, and is so tone-deaf as to make one fear for American publishing. And 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 Hayden.

At least this should quickly become one of those blips on Panettiere's 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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