I Love You, Beth Cooper
Denis Cooverman has but one regret about his years of high school: He never spoke to Beth Cooper. He adored her from afar, er, from the desk just behind hers. He amassed detailed knowledge about her likes and dislikes. And he kept a life-sized poster of her—in all her cheerleading splendor—taped to the ceiling over his bed. But he never actually worked up the nerve to talk to her.
That's about to change.
Taking his best friend Rich's advice, Denis finally blurts out his undying love for the pretty blond. Unfortunately, he admits his feelings during his valedictorian speech at their high school graduation. And he goes on to encourage others to unburden their souls about such things as eating disorders, physical abuse and sexual proclivities. Which leaves a lot of people pretty ticked off since most everybody knows exactly who he's talking about.
For Beth's part, she thinks Denis' speech is incredibly humiliating, but just sweet enough that she won't kill him. Her muscle-bound boyfriend, Kevin, however, isn't feeling so generous. But Beth and her two girlfriends show up at Denis' deserted graduation party anyway. If nothing else, it'll be worth a couple laughs, they figure. And so begins Denis' odyssey—a single night crammed full of all the pleasure, pain and excitement that he's missed out on for all those lost high school years. Well ... all the pain anyway.
When Denis finally gets to know "the girl of his dreams," he realizes that she's totally different than his idealized version of her. At first he's disappointed, but when he comes to see what's beneath the pretty facade, he realizes that Beth is much more than he ever imagined. She begins to see unexpected sides of Denis as well. And an unforeseen friendship blossoms.
In fact, the central theme of the movie is that stereotypes and surface impressions are usually false. Viewers are encouraged to look past the outside veneer and see the real person underneath.
With the end of high school, Beth believes her glory days are behind her and imagines that tomorrow will be bleak. Denis balks at that logic, saying, "The Beth Cooper I know is the most alive person I've ever met." He encourages her, telling her that the future can be as exciting as she wants to make it. As they part, Beth tells him, "Thank you for loving me."
When Beth and her two cheerleader friends show up at Denis' party, he "reverently" calls them the "Trinity." Beth turns on her car radio and hears a preacher say, "I rebuke you in the name of Jesus" before she changes the station. A girl randomly mentions that wine reminds her of Jesus.
Where to start? The most talked about and highly promoted thing in this PG-13 comedy is a partially nude scene that takes place in a girl's locker room. Beth and her friend, Treece, both drop their towels and expose themselves to Denis as the camera catches their bare backs and some partial side breast nudity.
"I was really naked," 19-year-old star Hayden Panettiere told the press after shooting. "I had these little sticky petals on my boobs, but that was about it. My dad calls me such an exhibitionist. He always says, 'God, even when you were little, you were such an exhibitionist!'"
When the girls scamper off to the showers, Rich follows them in, tossing his boxer shorts behind him. Throughout the rest of the movie, Beth, her friends and a number of other young girls wear low-cut, cleavage-revealing tops as well as a variety of other skimpy and formfitting outfits. Teen girls in bikinis adorn a poolside party.
Before leaving his son unchaperoned at his graduation party, Denis' dad encourages him to have "fun" and tells him that he left a box of condoms in his dresser drawer. Rich retrieves the prophylactics and a girl blows one up like a balloon. While Denis is having his party, his mom and dad drive out to a deserted lane and start making out in their car. When the teen tries to call them, Dad ignores the call and seductively slides the vibrating cell phone down the front of his wife's pants. Later we see Dad stagger out of the parked vehicle with his pants down around his ankles.
One of the school's coaches fondles a female student's backside while they play a game of pool.
Rich suggests that he and Denis reenact a sword fight from a Robin Hood video, except that they use their erections instead of swords. And that's only one of the "gay" jokes surrounding Rich. Throughout the movie the teen is told, by teachers and students alike, that he is obviously homosexual (and that that's perfectly OK), even though he earnestly denies it. He and Denis are given the nicknames "D--k Munch and the Penis." And by the end of the film, after repeated nudging, Rich ventures that he may, in fact, be "gay, or maybe bi." Rich is licked and seduced by Beth's two girlfriends; the three of them are later shown, apparently naked, in bed together.
Beth and Denis kiss several times. Trying to convince a clerk in a convenience store to sell them beer, Beth promises to kiss him so hard that "every time you think of it you'll have to change your shorts." After Beth's car comes to a jarring stop, Denis ends up face down in her lap. He turns to look up her dress and the camera follows suit. At one point Denis strips to his Spider-Man undershorts. He drinks vodka out of a cup with two breasts on its side.
Though most of the violence is played for laughs, there is still plenty of realistic thumping going on. Sad sack Denis finds himself in the middle of most of it. He's punched full in the face on several occasions, leaving his nose and mouth bleeding. Other painful-looking examples of his punishment include being hit and sent flying by a car, being beaten with a pair of skeleton arms, getting smacked in the eye by a pressurized cork, and being scratched and punctured by thorns after tumbling off a rooftop into a flower garden.
But Denis doesn't bleed alone. A vicious fistfight erupts at a party and involves a number of massive punches and kicks to various faces. Rich gets into the action by unleashing repeated wet towel snaps to his attackers' faces and crotches. Cars bash into buildings. Furniture is smashed. And bottles are hurled into nearby walls and floors by partygoing hooligans.
During one imitable screen moment, Beth recklessly drives her car down a pitch-black back street with the headlights turned off. When she finally flips the lights back on, she barely avoids a head-on collision and sideswipes another car parked on the roadside. Beth opens a beer bottle with her teeth. When Denis tries to follow suit he breaks off and spits out a tooth.
Crude or Profane Language
There's one f-word (along with two uses of "effing"). The s-word leads the profanity pack, however, with over a dozen uses. "B--ch," "a--" and "h---" follow along with a handful of uses each. Jesus' name is blasphemed once. God's name is abused quite a few more times than that; at least five times it's combined with "d--n."
Drug and Alcohol Content
Before Denis' parents leave the house they give their son a bottle of champagne to share with his teen friends, admonishing them to keep it at one glass per guest. The wine is spilled, but Denis and his buds buy and drink a 12-pack of beer. They also make their way to another graduation party and, later, to a family cabin where beer and alcohol is imbibed by teens without restrictions or adult supervision.
Beth accuses her angry, hyper-violent boyfriend of being heavily medicated and on a "cocaine/speed road rage."
Other Negative Elements
When Denis' nose bleeds profusely after being punched, Treece offers him two Tampons to absorb the blood. After seeing that Denis destroyed the family kitchen and ran wild all night, his dad merely says, "Hope you had fun." Then he reluctantly adds, "You know we have to punish you somehow." Denis replies, "Whatever it is, it was worth it."
In an iesb.net interview, director Chris Columbus spoke of how closely he identified with the central characters of his new film. "I was a complete combination of Denis Cooverman and Rich Munsch because I just was a freak in high school," Columbus said. "I was hopelessly in love with probably seven or eight different girls, who all said no. But that sense of putting them all on a pedestal and not really knowing who they were was a big problem."
And that sensitivity to the movie's subject matter peeks through at times. There are some almost poignant moments when it appears that I Love You, Beth Cooper was meant to ask redeeming questions about identity and stereotypes—to get teen viewers to muse about the relationships they have and the future they want—instead of simply being another randy teen sex comedy. It's even possible that the director intended to make an updated version of one of those old John Hughes pics: a lightweight movie filled with pop-centric humor about one long night of falling in and out of love with the girl of your dreams.
If that was the goal, Beth Cooper stumbles short before upchucking in the sink. All the unclothed and semi-clothed teens-gone-wild craziness and adults-who-should-know-better stupidity is troweled on so thick that anything even close to redemptive is quickly drowned.
All night beer runs, romps in the girl's shower and spur-of-the-moment threesomes may indeed be the things of some adolescent fantasies. But there's no call for movies to reinforce and legitimize them. In a sentence: I loath your movie, Beth Cooper.
Other Belief Systems
Readability Age Range
Hayden Panettiere as Beth Cooper; Paul Rust as Denis Cooverman; Jack T. Carpenter as Rich Munsch; Lauren London as Cammy Alcott; Lauren Storm as Treece Kilmer
20th Century Fox
July 10, 2009
November 3, 2009