Here’s to you, “Beth Cooper”

9564_8761728788A grave injustice has been done, and I am the one who done it.

With all the hullabaloo surrounding today’s premiere of “Public Enemies” and the July 10 opening of “Bruno,” I completely forgot to squeal giddily about what I believe will be the dark horse hit of summer ’09.

That’s right, is-it-weird-that-I’m-30-and-I’m-sitting-in-this-dark-theater-with-a-bunch-of-horny-teenagers? readers — I’m talking about none other than “I Love You, Beth Cooper,” based on the novel by “Simpsons” writer Larry Doyle. Opening July 10, this little gem has almost nothing going for it: no big-name stars (Paul Rust! That Jewish kid from “Freaks and Geeks”!), a uniformly awful PR campaign (as in “PR? What PR?”), a producer/director who’s career is spottier than J-Lo Hewitt’s pre-Proactive face. By all rights, it should be a huge dud.

But I’m not prepared to stamp a big fat “L” on the “Beth Cooper” just yet. (Haley Joel Osment saw dead people, I see potential.) Not necessarily in Hayden Panettiere, as I believe her function in this movie will be to wear tight wifebeaters, smile coyly, lick her lips and (wait for it) drop her towel and reveal her most awesome nakedness to drooling boys in the audience. (Consider her the Amanda/J-Lo-Hew  in this 2009 equivalent of “Can’t Hardly Wait.”) She looks hot, she can carry a tune (barely), but she, like, totally hasn’t quite gotten the hang of this whole “acting” thing. Nope, not much promise here. Move along, people; there’s nothing to see.

And yet … “I Love You, Beth Cooper” — billed as a kind of “Juno”/”Election” hybrid (re: never, no way, not gonna happen) — isn’t without hope. I see a little when I look upon the face of Paul Rust (who, in the tradition of movies like “Some Kind of Wonderful,” is seven years older than the high-schooler he plays). There’s an ironic smirk on that dork-chic face that, I suspect, belies an ability to shred bigger, meatier jock types with vicious rhetoric and withering sarcasm. He might be smarter than this material. So, too, might be criminally underappreciated comedic actors Alan Ruck and Cynthia Stevenson, who play Mr. and Mrs. Cooverman, respectively.

Or maybe not. Enter Point of Promise No. 2: Doyle’s best-selling novel. Possessed of a wicked, unapologetically prepubescent sense of humor, Doyle had loads of input on the script and, after filming, OK’d the release of a book edited and reshaped to gel with the movie. How many authors would be willing to admit imperfection in a popular, already-published book and see the movie adaptation as an excuse to make it better? The cool ones, that’s who. Doyle’s got a self-deprecating sense of humor that this writer digs, and I can’t see how it won’t translate into a sharp-edged script.

Come to think of it, now I’m not sure if I’m anticipating July 10 so much as dreading it. The last thing I need is another “No Country for Old Men” I-just-don’t-think-this-movie-will-be-that-popular fiasco.

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