Hating Beth Cooper

And what's more, Bruno just isn't up to Cohen's best

| July 16, 2009
I LOVE YOU BETH COOPER
  • I LOVE YOU BETH COOPER

Previews

Opening Wednesday, July 15, is the sixth and next-to-last Harry Potter adventure: Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. When we last saw Harry, the evil Voldemort unsuccessfully attempted to possess him but was foiled by Dumbledore and Harry himself. Now, with Dumbledore reinstated as headmaster at Hogwarts, the students find they are facing a new challenge in the form of raging hormones. But I strongly suspect that hormones will give way to the inevitable face-off between Harry and the forces of evil, led by Voldemort. Director David Yates returns from the previous film, and he will also direct the two-part film finale of the series. I'm particularly looking forward to the return of Helena Bonham Carter as Bellatrix Lestrange and, as I have increasingly enjoyed this series as it has grown darker, I'm hoping the hormones won't detract too much from the dark side. Rated PG for scary images, some violence, language and mild sensuality. 153m. At the Broadway, Mill Creek, Fortuna and Minor with midnight showings Tuesday at the Minor and Broadway.

Opening Friday, July 17, is the latest from director Sam Mendes -- Away We Go, a dramedy/roadtrip film about a couple (John Krasinski and Maya Rudolph) searching for the best place to raise their imminent child. Also starring Jeff Daniels, Maggie Gyllenhaal and Allison Janney. Looks like a nice break from the usual summer releases. Rated R for language and some sexual content. 98m. At the Minor.

The Eureka Library Based on the Book series for July, "Dark City Dames," continues Tuesday, July 21 with the 1950 noir Gun Crazy about a husband/wife crime spree, hosted by Wynston Jones. The screening begins at 6:30 p.m. at the Main Library with a discussion after the film.

Reviews

I LOVE YOU BETH COOPER: Sometimes a film comes along that is so spiritless, so derivative, so ... lousy ... that it makes all those other films you panned recently look like masterpieces. I Love You Beth Cooper is just such a film. So by way of apology to those who loved the guy film The Hangover (including several women I know), I'm really sorry -- it was a masterpiece only belatedly recognized by me as such. For those who loved the lame action film Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, based on little toys -- I take back all those negative comments I'm sure I made. Year One? I wasn't astute enough to recognize the sharp humor.

God forbid that some other film comes along that might make Beth Cooper appear even watchable. I do appreciate one thing about the film though -- two lines of dialog neatly summarize my experience with this sad exercise in teen comedy. Relatively late in the film (five minutes was actually too late in this film), Denis Cooverman (Paul Rust) says to Beth Cooper (Hayden Panettiere), "I'm not having fun anymore," and she replies "Who says you're supposed to have fun?" (Possibly paraphrased, but close.) Apparently not the viewers.

As happens too often with disappointing comedies, the setup seemed promising. Brainy, nerdy Denis, class valedictorian, is talked into giving his graduation speech by his best, and only, friend, Jack Carpenter (Rich Munsch), so that at last Beth Cooper will notice him. His speech consists of his confession that he loves Beth Cooper, the head cheerleader, along with insults to other selected members of his class, including Beth's steroid-enhanced boyfriend Kevin (Shawn Roberts).

Someone should have told the writer (Larry Doyle, from his own novel) that the film was going to be feature-length. Denis' speech leads to a long, tedious night with Beth and her two girlfriends and being chased and beaten by Kevin. The film also invokes virtually every stereotype of the genre. Socially inept nerd. Out-of-reach hottie who deep down just has a poor self-image. Hunky but brainless boyfriend of said hottie. A father who just wants his son to have fun. A best friend who may be gay. The hottie's realization that the nerd may actually be a sensitive, caring guy. Alcohol consumption. Mean girl. And so on. The trouble is, all of these have done better in virtually every previous example of the genre.

I went to the film thinking that its one saving grace might be Panettiere, who was so interesting in the first season of the TV series Heroes as the cheerleader (save the cheerleader, save the world). Alas, the script completely sinks both Panettiere and her character. Remember The Girl Next Door a few years ago? A masterpiece in retrospect. Rated PG-13 for crude and sexual content, language, some teen drinking and drug references, and brief violence. 102m. At the Broadway.

BRUNO: I was unfamiliar with Sacha Baron Cohen when I went to see Borat, his previous film based on a character from the Da Ali G Show, and I recall I went with negative expectations based on the trailers. As it turned out, I laughed uproariously. Perhaps that's the value of low expectations, because I went to Cohen's latest film Bruno with higher expectations. While the film was intermittently funny, it just doesn't measure up to Borat. Either the element of surprise is gone, or Cohen's material is wearing a bit thin. It seemed to me that the range of satire in Bruno was limited and a bit repetitive.

As fans know, Bruno is a gay Austrian fashion reporter. Fired by his network for disrupting a fashion show, Bruno becomes barred from all fashion events and is deserted by his diminutive lover. With his abused assistant Lutz (Gustaf Hammarsten) as company, he travels to Los Angeles to become a superstar.

As in Borat, the film finds much to satirize in America, particularly for those who are homophobic, although for Cohen you appear to be safe from this affliction unless you're Southern, African-American or conservative Christian. And, similarly, Cohen is able to trick unsuspecting on-screen people into revealing their deeply held prejudices. It is this aspect of the film that provided most of the humor for me, such as watching recent presidential hopeful Ron Paul become increasingly uncomfortable as "Bruno" hits on him, finally stalking out of the room (dominated by a bed) and calling Bruno a queer. Also somewhat funny were the sequences with two different Christian counselors who specialize in turning gay people into heterosexuals, although the target here seemed too easy.

In fact, what disappoints most about the film is that the ugly Americans depicted here seem too obvious compared to his targets in Borat. Furthermore, the whole main plot that enables the film to attack its subject's attitudes, the quest to become a "superstar," was more bland than biting.

Cohen wants to have it both ways, here. If you are outraged by the stereotyped homosexual behavior, you're just a liberal being too PC to get the joke. On the other hand, if you laugh at the film's gay images, you may be homophobic like many of the people seen in the film, or just too dumb to get the joke -- like the drunken frat guys in Borat who apparently didn't know they were being satirized until some presumably more hip friend clued them in, leading to an unsuccessful lawsuit.

I laughed during Bruno, but at the end I was also somewhat disappointed. Oh Cohen, where is thy sting? Rated R for pervasive strong and crude sexual content, graphic nudity and language. 83m. At the Broadway, Mill Creek, Minor and Fortuna.

Continuing

THE HANGOVER. Getting severely trashed with your bros at a Vegas-based bachelor party can have serious consequences, especially when no one remembers what happened. Rated R. 100m. At the Broadway and Mill Creek.

ICE AGE: DAWN OF THE DINOSAURS. The gang makes a rescue mission for Sid that takes them into a mysterious underground world where they have close encounters with dinos and generally run amuck. Rated PG. At the Broadway (3-D), Mill Creek and Fortuna (3-D).

MY SISTER'S KEEPER. Parents with sick daughter have another child just to harvest her organs; harvested kid takes a stand when she gets old enough. Rated PG-13. 109m. At The Movies.

NIGHT AT THE MUSEUM: BATTLE OF THE SMITHSONIAN. Museum exhibits come to life leading to a history-packed battle of good versus evil. Rated PG. 105m. At the Broadway.

THE PROPOSAL. When a high-powered book editor faces deportation to her native Canada, she declares she's actually engaged to her assistant, who she's tormented for years. Rated PG-13. 108m. At the Broadway, Mill Creek and Fortuna.

PUBLIC ENEMIES. A Depp-alicious true crime drama set during the dawn of the FBI. Rated R. 140m. At the Broadway and Mill Creek.

STAR TREK. Get the action-packed backstory on Kirk and Spock's rivalry-ridden relationship. Rated PG-13. 127m. At The Movies.

TERMINATOR SALVATION. Young John Connor (C. Bale) leads human resistance to robotic overlords. But first he must solve a mystery! Rated PG-13. 115m. At The Movies.

TRANSFORMERS: REVENGE OF THE FALLEN. Once again, Sam Witwicky finds himself in the middle of the war between the Autobots and the Decipticons with the fate of the universe at stake. Rated PG-13. 151m. At the Broadway, Mill Creek and Fortuna.

UP. In Pixar's latest, an elderly gentleman sets out to fulfill lifelong dream despite annoying Boy Scout tagalong. Rated PG. 101m. At the Broadway.

X-MEN ORIGINS: WOLVERINE. Film leads up to events of X-Men with story of Wolverine's epically violent and romantic past. Rated PG-13. 107m. At The Movies.

YEAR ONE. Jack Black and Michael Cera join forces to portray Zed and Oh, bonehead hunter-gatherers who take an epic journey through the ancient world. Rated PG-13. 98m. At The Movies.

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