*½/**** Image N/A Sound N/A Extras C
starring Hayden Panettiere, Paul Rust, Jack T. Carpenter, Lauren London
screenplay by Larry Doyle, based on his novel
directed by Chris Columbus
by Jefferson Robbins I believe this is what it looks like when a veteran director throws in the towel. Morosely paced, edited with no ear for slapstick, perfectly mediocre in its staging, timing, scripting, and performances, I Love You, Beth Cooper (hereafter Beth Cooper) betrays benign neglect on the part of producer-director Chris Columbus. It's as if he tossed together all the ingredients for a thoughtful but teen-friendly confection--a recipe inherited from his late mentor John Hughes--and took it on faith that the cake would bake itself. There's even a weird invocation of the dead god of teen comedies: Columbus casts Alan Ruck, a.k.a. Cameron in Ferris Bueller's Day Off, as the hero's dad and supplies the sidekick with Cameron's absent, oppressive shadow of a father. That's not homage--that's the desperate rubbing of a talisman, a prayer to recapture lightning that leaked out of the bottle long ago.