Everyone who reads Larry Doyle’s rollicking coming of age novel, I Love You, Beth Cooper, thinks the same thing: This would make a great movie!
Be careful what you wish for.
Turns out, the cinematic quality of the book—its laugh-out-loud funny scenes and action that evokes a John Hughes movie in written form—doesn’t translate to actual film.
Part of the problem is the casting. Not only is the lead actor Paul Rust proboscisly challenged (hey, it takes one to know one), he’s devoid of any real charm or movie star appeal. What’s more, he’s about 10 years too old for the part of high school senior Denis “The Coov” Cooverman, who uses his valedictorian speech as a chance to confess to head cheerleader (Hayden Pannettiere) that he loves her. (While he’s at it, he also calls out the school’s bully and its resident mean girl, and tells his closeted best friend Rich it’s okay to be gay.)
What follows is a (would-be) madcap night of adventure, where The Coov is on the run from Beth’s goonish boyfriend Kevin (Shawn Roberts), joined by Rich (Jack Carpenter, a kind of Jeff Goldblum for the Disney set), plus the object of his fantasies and her two randy BFFs.
The action scenes play like retread version of Ferris Bueller’s Day Off or Risky Business. But while Ferris Buellerfeatured a sort of Teflon teen and Risky Business was about our hero getting in way over his head, the extreme violence and property damage in I Love You, Beth Cooper signifies nothing—it’s simply disturbing. (You find yourself thinking: Is somebody going to get arrested? Who’s going to pay for all this damage? Might somebody actually . . .die?) The romance between The Coov and Beth falls flat. As directed by Hughes vet Christopher Columbus (and written by Doyle, himself), the whole venture feels comfortably slick but seriously phoned in.
My advice? Oh, you saw this coming, didn’t you? Read the book.