I Love You, Beth Cooper | Screen | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

I Love You, Beth Cooper

It's the most horrible-wonderful day of Denis Cooverman's young life.

During his high school valedictorian speech, he impulsively blurts out, "I love you, Beth Cooper." Pretty, popular Beth (Hayden Panettiere) has likely never even noticed gangly nerd-boy Denis (Paul Rust) before, but for a lark, she and two pals turn up at his lame-o party later that night. (Denis' only guest: his "not-gay," drama-happy friend Rich.) But Beth's rageaholic boyfriend also shows up -- and the nutty night full of longing, learning and laughs begins.

Chris Columbus directs this adaptation of Larry Doyle's comic novel, and his take is more movie-house fantasia than insightful coming-of-age tale. It may seem counter-intuitive, but often madcap events fare better on the written page than fleshed out in a film. Doyle's novel benefited from the singularity of Denis' voice, with its self-deprecating asides and trenchant observations. While Rust does fine as Denis, watching the nerd stumble around in embarrassment is the stuff of a thousand previous teen comedies. And the truly keee-razy stuff (like cars driving through parties) on the big screen looks like lazy yuks.

Doyle's novel was relatively wise about how quickly Huge Important Things in high school -- including crushes and clung-to identities -- dry up as quickly as the ink on the just-issued diploma. But Columbus -- and now, Doyle, who wrote the screenplay -- has a test market to please. So, the last reel is larded up with energy-draining sentiment and a romantic cop-out, rendering Doyle's laugh-out-loud novel just another teen movie. Starts Fri., July 10.

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