Teen romance, on autopilot

The writer of I Love You, Beth Cooper says the story is based on a dream. I believe him. This is one of the very few movies where I wanted the hero to wake up and discover it was only a dream.

Jack T. Carpenter

I Love You, Beth Cooper

Two stars

Rated: PG-13 (for crude and sexual content, language, some teen drinking and drug references, and brief violence)

The writer of I Love You, Beth Cooper says the story is based on a dream. I believe him. This is one of the very few movies where I wanted the hero to wake up and discover it was only a dream.

But it’s a dream all the way through — a dream evoking just another teen romcom.

The situation is so universal. The high school nerd harbors a secret crush on the most popular girl in school. He chooses the occasion of his valedictory speech to publicly proclaim this love.

We can believe that, all the way up to the valedictory speech. But, yes, this is another movie hailing a hero with the courage to say what he really believes and accept the consequences.

Sometimes, as in a dream, doing that will pay off abundantly by focusing the popular girl’s attention on how unique and special you are.

Sometimes the popular girl will reveal herself as actually a warm and cuddly human being. Sometimes.

More often, the nerd will confirm everyone’s belief in his nerdhood, humiliate himself, selfishly derail the whole graduation exercise, and discover that the most popular girl really is a bitch.

Lots of wonderful girls fall in love with nerds. They may not become the most popular girl in school, but they don’t care. That honor carries with it a terrible lifetime price tag.

So what I wish is that I Love You, Beth Cooper had awakened from its dream and been a smart high school comedy, even one subscribing to an alternate set of cliches in which the hero discovers he really loves the nerdy girl once she takes off her glasses.

I am also tiring of the way high school movies insist that all non-heroic characters travel in posses of three. All Most Popular Girls arrive flanked by two girlfriends who follow them by half a step. And all macho villains have two underlings who follow their orders.

In I Love You, Beth Cooper, the girlfriends are nice enough, because the heroine is. But the villain, “Muncher” Munsch (Jack Carpenter), is a uniformed ROTC officer who, along with his sidekicks, is a muscular master of the martial arts, skilled gymnast and vicious bully. When he whistles, his minions snap to attention. And they attack with coordination worthy of a dance troupe.

The movie also goes over the top with special effects, where the theory “less is more” must be in an incomprehensible language.

I know that fierce struggles over romance can break out in high school, but with these kids, I doubt they would threaten to be lethal. Nor is driving an SUV into a house commonplace. Scene after scene is on autopilot.

I’m thinking of films that remember what it’s like to be a teenager with a hopeless love. Almost Famous, Lucas, Say Anything, The Man in the Moon. If I were a filmmaker like Chris Columbus, who has directed two of the Harry Potter films, I don’t know if I’d bother with this genre unless I felt I could make a film aspiring to that kind of stature.

Of the two co-stars, what I can say is that I’m looking forward to their next films.

Hayden Panettiere (Beth) is professional and lovable and convincingly projects emotions and has a face the screen loves. Paul Rust (Denis the valedictorian) can be very earnest and sincere, and seems to actually take the plot seriously, which is more than I could do.

Roger Ebert is a syndicated movie critic for The Chicago Sun Times.

Just Posted

With SCS approved in Red Deer’s Rail Lands, at least 2 businesses look to move

With the city moving ahead with a fenced-off supervised drug consumption site… Continue reading

Bringing music to Red Deer for 50 years

The Red Deer Community Band Society has been bringing music to the… Continue reading

Guards injured, money stolen, during overnight blast at Edmonton bank

EDMONTON — Two security guards have been injured in an explosion that… Continue reading

Pot stores on agenda at Toronto city council after two municipalities opt out

TORONTO — Councillors in Toronto are set to debate whether to allow… Continue reading

WATCH: CP Holiday Train rolls into Lacombe

Kelly Prescott performed for hundreds of Central Albertans

Barry Cooper: Separation has become a real possibility, thanks to Ottawa’s abuses

In the past couple of weeks, a retired senior oil executive, Gwyn… Continue reading

Sex assault trial for former gymnastics coach resumes in Sarnia

SARNIA, Ont. — The trial of a former high-ranking gymnastics coach accused… Continue reading

Victims of former ski coach Charest say they were ‘sacrificed’ by Alpine Canada

MONTREAL — A lawsuit filed Wednesday against Alpine Canada by three victims… Continue reading

Emily Blunt on the ‘daunting’ task of playing Mary Poppins

BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. — Emily Blunt loves a challenge, and in the… Continue reading

Tommy Chong says Canada’s weed legalization has kept ‘underground market alive’

TORONTO — Tommy Chong has a pass, man. While some Canadians who… Continue reading

Apple deepens Austin ties, expands operations east and west

AUSTIN, Texas — Apple will build a $1 billion campus in Austin,… Continue reading

Trump comments upend U.S. approach to Huawei, trade talks

WASHINGTON — The United States and China have taken pains this week… Continue reading

WATCH: CP Holiday Train rolls into Lacombe

Kelly Prescott performed for hundreds of Central Albertans

Most Read