I read I Love You, Beth Cooper a couple years ago and fell in love with the book. I passed it along to several of my friends and they fell in love with it. So when I heard that not only was there going to be a movie but that the book’s author Larry Doyle was writing the screenplay I was excited.
I Love You, Beth Cooper begins at a high school graduation as Denis Cooverman (Paul Rust) is making his valedictorian speech and he boldly proclaims his love for head cheerleader Beth Cooper (Hayden Panettiere). He goes on to call out several high school stereotypes (the class bully, the bitchy rich girl, etc.) as well as his best friend for possibly being gay. The result of his bold move plays out over the next hour and a half of film to varying effect.
I love teen comedies and as a teen comedy, this movie falls flat. And by flat, I mean it never rises off the ground. Larry Doyle’s book is a morality tale in the vein of “be careful what you wish for….” Denis Cooverman gets his wish and gets his ass kicked repeatedly as a result. Evan Dorkin’s drawings at the beginning of each chapter illustrate how Denis goes from looking like a geeky teenager to looking like a bloody mess by the night’s end. The movie barely touches this. In fact, the violence is downplayed quite a bit and Denis barely has a scratch on him at the end of the night. But this isn’t the only thing that didn’t translate from the book.
When I read the book, it felt like Larry Doyle was writing a novelization for a feature film that had not been filmed yet. It’s true that the movie stays very close to the book, probably because it was written by Doyle himself. All the elements, characters and the major plot points carry over but the movie just doesn’t feel natural like the book. Throughout the movie, there are flashbacks to fill in some back story on the characters that feel very forced and at least once slows the momentum of the scene. All in all it feels clunky.
As far as the acting, it is what it is. Hayden Panettiere does what she can with Beth Cooper and Paul Rust is an adequate Denis Cooverman. But the real star of this movie is Jack Carpenter as Denis’ best friend Rich Munsch. Carpenter throws himself into the role without fear and brings a little humanity to his character whereas the rest are at best movie stereotypes. And I’m not sure what the budget was on this film but it looked like they spent all of it on Hayden’s salary and skimped on the production.
I have to say one thing about the music: the book is covered in music, the movie is not. I understand that music licenses are expensive and sometimes artists will not allow their music to be used but this movie started off on the wrong foot with me because Green Day’s “Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)” was replaced by a song called “Forget Me” by Eleni Mandell. I’m sure this is just me being picky but there are several music cues from the book that did not make it into the movie. A little attention to detail (in more areas than just the music) would have done wonders for this movie.
At the end of the movie, I felt like I probably wouldn’t have liked it if I hadn’t read the book. I’m not sure how the average person will feel about this movie going into it cold. I know that to expect the movie to be as good as the book is asking a lot but this movie felt bland and uninspired. To compare it to other movies in its genre wouldn’t be fair to the other movies but here’s my take: better than College but not as good as 10 Things I Hate About You.