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I Love You, Beth Cooper

Declarations of High School Love

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars.

Teen comedies about a nerd lusting after the popular girl/guy are nothing new. John Hughes solidified the genre in the 80s and, in recent years, Judd Apatow adapted the stories for an older generation. So with an easily guessable plot and character arch, where does that leave I Love You, Beth Cooper? While it’s far from a masterpiece of the genre, it’s a welcome, original addition that is sure to be a late night TV staple in years to come.

The 90s were ripe with so-bad-they’re-good teen rom-coms -- a few enjoyable ones and countless bland Hughes wannabes. Then Judd Apatow came along and completely reinvented the style, especially with the Seth Rogen penned and Greg Mottola directed Superbad. Not only did the film have heart, like 16 Candles, but it was also raunchy, dirty and, above all, hilarious.

Mottola went on to also direct this year’s Adventureland, another teen rom-com set in the 80s to much critical acclaim. With the surge of this genre reconstruction, it’s hard to separate I Love You, Beth Cooper from its predecessors (and inevitable followers), but it has enough of its own originality to stand on its own two feet, even if it doesn’t score as big as Superbad or Adventureland.

It can’t hurt that Chris Columbus -- who directed John Hughes’ script Home Alone and its sequel -- helms the film with a seasoned director’s eyes, while convincingly creating a fun and amusing high school adventure comedy that doesn’t feel contrived during its more sentimental moments.

Denis (Paul Rust) is the quintessential Star Wars nerd who lusts after the head cheerleader and is Valedictorian of his graduating high school class. He decides to use his speech to declare his unrequited love of said cheerleader, Beth Cooper, in an act to leave the school with no regrets. Unfortunately, he also insults her testosterone-loaded, Navy boyfriend in the process, effectively drawing a target on his forehead. Like any film about the pairing of the nerdy guy and the popular girl, the film attempts to dispel the stereotypes that go along with those titles, while also affirming that they exist on some surface level.

Beth ("Heroes" hottie Hayden Panettiere) finds some amusement in Denis’ declaration and decides to attend his party, of which she and her “minions” are the only guests. As the two, with friends in tow, try to avoid her roid-rage boyfriend Kevin (Shawn Roberts) from destroying Denis, they break free of their high school bubble and catch a glimpse of what the real world is like, where “nerd” and “cheerleader” aren’t readily applicable.

Relative newcomer Paul Rust definitely scores points as the perpetually awkward teenage boy. Instead of subscribing to the cute Michael Cera brand of boyish discomfort, Rust plays his own character that many will be able to relate to, perhaps more than Cera’s. He may not have the same overall charisma that Cera or Adventureland’s Jesse Eisenberg boast, but he definitely makes an impression on screen. So much so, that it’s obvious he’ll be another young actor to watch.

If you’re looking for something funny yet meaningful, this probably won’t satiate that new Apatowian hunger. But if it’s genuine laughs you’re after then I Love You, Beth Cooper will hold you over.