On graduation day, mega-dork Denis Cooverman (Paul Rust) seizes his last chance to tell the whole school exactly how he feels about his gorgeous classmate Beth Cooper (Heroes hottie Hayden Panettiere). But while faint heart never won fair maiden, it's probably unwise to upset fair maiden's psychotic army-trained boyfriend. The nerds are in for a night they'll never forget in a comedy of adolescent errors from Home Alone/Harry Potter director Chris Columbus.
When it comes to generating hits with universal appeal, Chris Columbus has a formidable track record - as a writer (Gremlins, The Goonies), producer (Night At The Museum) and director (Home Alone, Mrs Doubtfire, Harry Potters 1 and 2).
So it's surprising to find him at the helm of a sexed-up, dumbed-down romp that can't decide whether to please undemanding adults, sniggering adolescents or naughty children who shouldn't be watching in the first place.
Adapted by Larry Doyle from his own novel, I Love You, Beth Cooper is what courage-plucking dweeb Denis Cooverman (Rust) announces in his valedictorian address after being alphabetically fated to spend his entire high school life loving the girl from behind.
If only his speech had stopped there. Throwing caution to the wind, however, he also gives his opinion on his fellow classmates, upsetting the school bully, the rich girl, and Beth's army trainee boyfriend Kevin (Shawn Roberts).
And just for good measure, he outs his equally dorky, movie-quoting best friend Rich (Jack T. Carpenter) as gay. Rich spends the rest of the movie denying this in a running gag which fails to amuse the first time and stays that way.
Thus Denis ensures that the only people at his graduation party will be Rich and himself... So they are stunned when Beth and her two good-time homegirls show up. But not as stunned as when coked-up Kevin and his army buddies follow.
Cue much cartoonish violence and a chaotic evening during which the beauties and the geeks hurtle around crashing parties, crashing the school, and crashing into Denis's parents, before crashing at a lakeside lodge.
While enduring numerous beatings, humiliations Denis learns that this is not the Beth Cooper of his dreams. In fact, get her behind the wheel of a car and she's a nightmare (the film's second overstretched joke).
"This is not funny any more!" wails Denis. "Who said it was supposed to be fun?" she asks. It's a response that sums up a scattergun script which is as funny peculiar as it is funny ha-ha.
Tonally, it's all over the place. Occasional stabs at sentiment sit uneasily with the prominent mean streak, and while the early dialogue zings, some of the latter stuff stinks
Panettiere has yet to prove her comedy chops but it would take a genius to elicit mirth from the line "Am I everything you masturbated to?" And as her suitably hapless stooge, it's not necessarily a good thing that Rust is destined to become the new Jason Biggs.
But what do you expect when you reheat American Pie?