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'Beth Cooper' is super bad, not 'Superbad'

"I Love You, Beth Cooper" is the title.  Middle-aged men trying to rekindle real or imagined memories of wild high school-age debauchery could be the reason it all falls flat.

Who among us hasn't thought back on, or perhaps forward to that wild graduation night.  After all the diplomas have been handed out and the obligatory pictures with mom and dad are safely locked inside the family camera, it's wild-ass party time, right?

That actually didn't happen to me, or perhaps not to you either.  I marched right into college summer-session the morning after high school graduation to get a head start on my career. 
(I did that for this?  Never mind, I'll work that out with my therapist later.)

The point is, we can all dream a little and pretend we were the cool guys and girls in the hot car zooming away from high school and into adventurous adult life whether it actually transpired or not.

Unfortunately, when humorist, novelist and now screenwriter Larry Doyle teams up with director Chris Columbus to make yet another raunchy teen comedy  along those lines, the creative tires are seriously deflated. 

Anyone who has read Doyle's contributions to The New Yorker's "Shouts and Murmurs" page knows what a gifted comedy writer the former "Simpsons" writer/producer can be.

For some reason, though, this collaboration between the promising writer and the formerly hot filmmaker (Columbus helmed the first two "Harry Potter" adventures) fizzles.

I've got to think that the outtakes to "Superbad," a far superior recent variation on the theme, probably captured unbridled, but uncertain teen excessive indulgence much better than this.

Up and coming actor Paul Rust, who claims to hail from Iowa but needs to be DNA tested as a possible Sean Penn offspring, plays high school dork Denis Cooverman. 
He's been secretly in love with Beth Cooper (Hayden Panettiere of "Heroes" on TV) for years, although he's never quite summoned the nerve to speak one word to her.

So in his valedictorian speech, Denis professes his love for the head cheerleader who fills his heart and the ceiling over his bed (in poster form).  Kevin (Shawn Roberts), Beth's square-necked, military boyfriend with double-digit intelligence, doesn't appreciate Denis gushing love for "his girl" in front of a graduation ceremony crowd.

So off we go on a wild night where Denis gets savagely beaten more than once, cars crash through mansion plate glass windows and even some parents get caught with their pants down.

Doyle and Columbus never intended this comic bottom-feeder to be a documentary, of course.  But the ease in which these kids buy booze and wreak havoc doesn't summon up the usual line of "Where are you going to college?"  The question here should be, "When do you expect to get out of prison?"

Rust, who does all he can here with scant material, is a young actor with range who bears watching.  Not just in Quentin Tarantino's upcoming "Inglourious Basterds," but beyond as well. 
Panettiere proved she can hold our attention on the big screen in "Ice Princess."  There's not much for her to do here but pout and shout, although she handles that with ease.

As for Doyle and Columbus, two thoughts: 
"I Love You, Beth Cooper" pretty much seals the deal on the thought that novelists should write their own screenplays only in the event every other screenwriter has been wiped off the planet by a mysterious plague like ... what's the word, what's the phrase? ... oh yeah, writer's block.

Secondly, I knew Columbus had discovered nothing promising here when I realized early on that I liked this boring teen romp less than the director's uninspired screen version of "Rent."


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