Release date (wide): July 10, 2009
Grades: Overall: D+, Teens: C, Story: C
The title character (Hayden Panettiere) is a graduating senior at a medium-size high school in Washington State. Denis Cooverman (Paul Rust, who is 28 in real life) uses his valedictory address (at least the part that the principal lets him complete before stopping him abruptly) to tell her of his so-far concealed love for her. He has a life-size poster of her over his bed, and everything.
She is embarrassed but touched, and so she takes him up on his offer to attend a post-graduation party at his house. She and her friends are the only guests, in addition to Denis’s friend, Rick (Jack T. Carpenter). Rick, it turns out, is trying to find his sexual identity, and Beth’s two friends help him out with that, as they have a little threesome action off-camera.
Anyway, back to the main story: There is some exploration of issues that teens face as they leave high school, including what the future will bring. This element brings some of the most “real” material to a storyline that is otherwise chock full of overused and overplayed stereotypes (the nerdy friends of the class valedictorian, the ROTC officer intent on beating to a pulp anyone who looks at his former girlfriend the wrong way, the gym teacher who condones fistfights while humping a female student near a bowl of punch, etc… you get the drift).
Beth herself is a stereotype, the head cheerleader who peaks in high school, who drives in an unbelievably reckless fashion, who convinces a convenience store clerk to sell her some beer by sucking his face for two seconds in a way that will, in her words, cause him to wet his pants every time he thinks about it. However, Ms. Panettiere has just a few scenes where her acting ability really shines through and perhaps saves this movie from a total waste heap of film, no doubt thanks to the direction of Chris Columbus, who has only a screenplay that just didn’t translate well for the big screen to work with.
But in the end, no one can save this one, not even Hayden Panettiere or Chris Columbus. The movie is memorable in some respects, particularly Beth’s final cheer, intended only for Denis, where her introspective eyes show the recognition that she will never do something like that for real again in her life, and her recognition of her own lifetime peak before the age of 20. The two main characters even promise to marry each other if they make it to the 10th reunion and are still single, but somehow, we don’t really care. Neither character is developed deeply enough, outside the teen antics of drinking and play sex, for us to relate in any real way. They just don’t have any real chemistry between them, and I think they both realize that. And I suppose that’s how it is for most teens: an average existence doesn’t make a great movie, and these two teens have nothing more than an average existence. Though good in real life, it doesn’t play well on the screen.
Box office tracking info: http://www.boxofficemojo.com/movies/?id=iloveyoubethcooper.htm