Thursday, November 5, 2009

I Love You, Beth Cooper

On June 30, I posted that I Love You, Beth Cooper was going to suck, mainly on the evidence that lead actress Hayden Panettiere gave an inappropriately racy interview. The movie came out on DVD this week so in the interest of science - Science I tell you! - I decided to give it a view.

First, let's do the numbers. I Love You, Beth Cooper opened on July 10 (Hi, Q) in over 1800 theaters. In its first week, it grossed a terrible $7.5M, followed by a paltry $5M for week two. After that, its theater count dropped by more than half as it started moving to dollar theaters. I Love You, Beth Cooper finished its theatrical run with a grand take of $14.7M. The movie only cost $18M, so the studio will probably make a small profit after home video and cable. Nonetheless, I think we can say that ILYBC was a financial disappointment.

After posting my I Love You, Beth Cooper sucks essay, I checked out the credits. ILYBC was directed by Chris Columbus. I didn't even have to look up his resume. Columbus - why is that name so memorable? - directed the first two Harry Potter movies, Home Alone, Mrs Doubtfire and one of my personal favorites, Adventures in Babysitting. Would Chris Columbus make a dog of a movie? Is a guy with that much talent capable of directing a dog? I was very curious.

I also think I need to rephrase my original postulate. Saying a movie will suck is a little broad. Bad movies can do well at the box office; good movies can play to empty theaters. Based on the evidence in June, I should have said that I Love You, Beth Cooper will not perform well at the box office. Not as catchy as "It will suck" but more accurate. Nonetheless, after viewing on DVD, how is it?

I Love You, Beth Cooper is pretty good. Denis, the high school valedictorian and uber-geek, gives a no-regrets speech that riles up pretty much everyone in the school, including Beth Cooper, the girl he was alphabetically next to for four years but had never talked to. He's essentially marked himself for a beating by insulting Beth's older, steroid-using Army Ranger boyfriend. Valedictorian-boy and his best friend, who was outed during the speech, have a graduation party that is attended by no one, until a bored Beth and two of her friends show up. A little later the Ranger and his buddies show up and tear the place apart. The five teenagers escape by car and begin a series of mobile adventures. By the end, Denis realizes that he had no idea who Beth Cooper was and she has her eyes opened to all the possibilities ahead of her.

The movie strikes a nice tone throughout, with Beth being outwardly adventurous to cover up low self-esteem and Denis always a minute away from a beating. It's a pretty intelligent movie and gets cheap in only a few places. All-in-all, for the teen romp genre, I liked in a lot.

And what about that nude scene Hayden pumped? There is a locker-room scene, sure, complete with dropped towel and a little side-boob, but nothing we haven't seen on episodes of Friends. Well, maybe a titch more but hardly anything racy.

So why did Hayden give the sexy interview? I suspect the studio realized they had a problem. I Love You, Beth Cooper is no Superbad (the teen romp-com genre standardbearer), so it can't really sell itself. It also opened in the middle of summer amid other comedies, romantic comedies and full-on action pictures. They knew it was going to get lost and it did. What they really needed to do to make the movie succeed was to change its opening date to April or May where the graduation theme would seem more appropriate and have less competition. Where is that time machine when you need it?

So if you're looking for a good light comedy, I Love You, Beth Cooper will get the job done. While you're at the video store, make it a Chris Columbus double feature and pick up Adventures in Babysitting.

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