I Love You, Beth Cooper

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I Love You, Beth Cooper
CRASH COURSE Panettiere opts for an unusual parking space.

Nerdy Denis (Rust) uses his graduation speech to reveal his unrequited love for campus queen Beth (Panettiere) and insult a cross-section of his classmates with debasing stereotypes. This nightmare scenario is to high-school valedictorians what this wreck of a movie is to comedy screenwriters. Larry Doyle’s adaptation of his own novel (!), in which Hayden Panettiere’s blond she-devil gives Paul Rust a night beyond his geeky dreams, cribs tiresomely from the “how to write dorks” manual. Denis stuns his nuts while uncorking champagne, wears Spider-Man tighty-whiteys and duels a jock with a plastic Star Wars lightsaber.

It doesn’t help that Rust is a sniveling nonpresence, unable to balance the screen with his female counterpart. In her first major big-screen role, the Heroes star conveys a strange, sad aloofness behind her sexed-up, car-crashing anarchy. In the midst of their destructive joyride, she blurts, “Who says it’s supposed to be fun?”; you wonder if Doyle (who wrote Looney Tunes: Back in Action and several Simpsons episodes) and director Columbus are consciously trying to implode the genre, emphasizing a suburban teen desolation undistracted by charismatic characters. If so, it’s an experiment done at the expense of the audience.—Kevin B. Lee

Opens Fri.

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