With the Independence Day holiday behind us, it’s safe to be able to issue a midterm to Hollywood over this year’s crop of Summer movies. And while they weren’t exactly straight-As to begin with, with the addition of I Love You, Beth Cooper to the line-up, their insufficiency may bring a whole new meaning to the term “summer school.”
The 80s was a fairly shitty decade for cinema, but one thing that it got right was the Teenage Comedy. So when I learned that I Love You, Beth Cooper was going to be in the vein of this genre, I got excited. When I found out it was written by a Simpsons alum, and had the accomplished-if-not-great director Chris Columbus behind the helm, I felt like this was about as sure-fire a success as this Summer would see.
But it turns out, that in a Summer with its fair share of junk comedies, I Love You, Beth Cooper might be the most frustrating. I complained about Year One a few weeks ago; but at least that was directed like a comedy – the direction behind Beth Cooper is unsure of itself to say the least.
The movie details the travails of a less-than-cool Valedictorian, Denis on the day of his high school Graduation. Delivering his speech in the opening ten minutes of the movie, he comes out and admits to an enormous crush he’s secretly harbored for four years on the lead cheerleader, who you’ve probably guessed by now is named Beth Cooper. Embarrassing to be sure, but it catches Beth’s attention; and she actually shows up at Denis’ graduation party. One insane obstacle leads to another (like a military douchebag tossing a microwave into a wall, and other over-the-top threats to our leading man’s well-being,) and they end up hanging out with each other until the morning light.
The script finds an entertaining blend of high school hystrionics and relatible issues we all remember from our teenage years. And, more often than not, it conjures up likable characters.
But the problem here is that Columbus doesn’t know what kind of movie he’s making. At the critics’ screening I attended, it was almost unanimous that the film felt like it “it had the life sucked out of it.” I’ll chalk this up to a few factors – seemed almost devoid of music or original score, something that a traditional, feel-good comedy has no reason not to be full of. Also, the bulky editing doesn’t know how to treat a comedy, with long pauses after jokes anticipating audience laughter that doesn’t ever show up. The end result destroys any comedic timing that the performers might have given their lines. Just because the movie’s about awkward teenagers doesn’t mean the movie itself should be awkward.
It adds up to another disappointment in a Summer full of them. To make a painfully obvious pun, I didn’t love you, Beth Cooper.