Where to begin dissecting the curiosity that is I Love You, Beth Cooper? With the distant sound of John Hughes spinning in his grave? With the film's uncanny ability to follow a five star moment of well-observed sweetness with gags including, and not limted to, tampons up the nose? With one of several genuinely funny moments or the long, slow periods where you feel you're never going to laugh again?
To say that I Love You, Beth Cooper is a mish mash would be something of an understatement, akin to saying "Eddie Murphy's career is in a little bit of trouble" or "Alan Carr is as funny as a complete anal prolapse." This is a film where the peaks are stellar and the troughs are recession-deep: much like Chris Columbus's CV, in fact.
The likeable Rust plays Denis Cooverman, the valedictorian of Buffalo Grove High School. Encouraged by his everyone-assumes-gay friend Rich (Carpenter), Denis uses his graduation speech as a chance to say the things that he's always wanted to say, from the likely reasons his gorilla-like nemesis has been bullying him, to the reason why the rich girl is such a bitch. Most of all though, he wants to tell Beth Cooper (Panetierre) how he feels. For six years, he's sat behind her and she's never noticed him. Now, after he's declared those titular five words, she's very aware who he is. And so is her coke-addled, over-developed army boyfriend Kevin (Roberts).
Thus begins a night Denis is never going to forget, where he finally gets to know the girl of his dreams and realise that, actually, she's not that special. And she's going to learn that there's more to life than muscular boyfriends and being head cheerleader. And everybody else, give or take, is going to learn their own standard teen movie lesson... And members of the audience are going to learn that they've just spent their hard-earned on something very, very odd indeed.
Panetierre (playing another bloody cheerleader?) is a perky lead, and just about convinces even when the dialogue does her no favours. Rust, too, does well, despite looking about 25. When it's just the two of them discussing life and love, the film has a Hughes-like poignancy and occasional flashes of wisdom that make it easier to overlook its heavy-handed message. But those scenes don't last, the jokes are sporadic, the clichés come, er, thick and fast and you'll be left utterly baffled how a film like this ever sees the light of day. Even the odd flash of comedic brilliance — an Errol Flynn-referencing fight with wet towels — or the in-jokey presence of Alan Ruck can't add anything, other than providing more evidence of what might have been.