I love you, Beth Cooper.
I love you because you made this movie bearable to watch.
This movie so desperately wants to be great. It's got all the ingredients; a decently likable cast, good direction, a fun soundtrack, and even some truly heartwarming moments. The only problem is that it never really finds its own voice or style. It's got some great stuff going on throughout but when the credits role, all you can think of is how you just wanted a little more.
The story isn't the greatest. At his speech in front of the whole school, valedictorian Dennis Cooverman (Paul Rust) talks about how high school should be looked at with no regrets. And, to drive his point home, he publicly declares his crush on the hottest girl in school, Beth Cooper (Hayden Panettiere). He also throws in a couple lines about other people in the school, including a quip about Kevin (Shawn Roberts), Beth's boyfriend and apparently giant muscly body guard.
Dennis invites Beth and her posse back to his house for a little graduation party, but alas, Kevin shows up as well. And boy oh boy, is he angry. Angry enough to rip the microwave out of the wall and throw it into the opposite one. The rest of the film follows Dennis, his best friend Rich (Jack Carpenter), Beth and her posse around town escaping from Kevin, who seems like a T-1000.
Kevin is my least favorite part of the movie. It's not the actor. I'm sure it is Columbus' direction. He speaks like Solid Snake, can do giant spinning kicks in the air, and looks at least 5 years older than everyone else in "high school". He's a really lame antagonist who you really just can't stand. Not because he's the antagonist, but because he's such a preposterous character.
The first half of the movie isn't funny. I kind of sat there squinting at the nerdiest of nerds while he tried to charm the captain of the cheerleading squad. It tries to be funny, but it isn't. This is because it does not know what kind of style it wants. It tries to be a high school sex comedy, but at the same time it sprinkles in Family Guy style cutscenes. You know what doesn't work in live action films? That.
The second half is much better. I would even go so far as to say it's extremely enjoyable. The main thing it succeeds in is showing how Beth Cooper could possibly ever look at Dennis with anything but embarrassment. It's simple, and it works. I applaud the movie on doing what seems like the impossible very nicely. The ending, I will say, is fantastic. The last scene. It's touching, it's smart, it's funny, and it's what the whole movie should have been.
So why only 2 stars? I should have liked the whole movie as much as I liked the last half hour. Some may say it's hard to make a teen high school comedy enjoyable for the whole movie, but to those naysayers I say nay. I enjoyed every minute of Sex Drive. Even the American Pie franchise is overall enjoyable.
As I said, Hayden Panettiere is the best part. She's very talented and I can't wait to see her in more roles like this. You know, roles where she is mortal. I like Paul Rust a lot as well. He reminds me of Jason Biggs in that his timing makes even his unfunny lines funny.
Sorry Larry Doyle, but maybe in 20 years your novel will be remade into another movie, and will have the comedy and the heart that you intended throughout the whole movie -- not just the end.