Love Don't Cost a Thing
Directed by Troy Beyer. Starring Nick Cannon, Christina Milian, Vanessa Bell Calloway, Steve Harvey, Kenan Thompson, Kal Penn, Ashley Monique Clark. (2003, PG-13, 100 min.)
REVIEWED By Marjorie Baumgarten, Fri., Dec. 19, 2003
What we have here is another uninspired remake of a movie that was never crying out for revisitation in the first place. Love Don't Cost a Thing is an "urbanized" (read African-American) remake of the 1987 teen comedy Can’t Buy Me Love starring Patrick Dempsey, Cindy Mancini, and Seth Green. The new movie’s not awful, it does its job but there’s little more to say about it than that. The plot remains essentially the same, except the film title substitutes the name of a J.Lo song for the original’s Beatles song title. Director Beyer co-wrote the script with Can’t Buy Me Love’s screenwriter Michael Swerdlick. The story kicks into gear when high school nerd Alvin Johnson (Cannon), a whiz of an automobile engineer, offers to use the money he was going to spend on a new camshaft for the scholarship-eligible car he is building with his three other nerd friends, on winning the most popular girl at school Paris Morgan (Milian). When Paris has a wreck in her mother’s Cadillac Escalade (the movie is very product-placement oriented – just ask J.Lo’s ex Sean Combs, whose music and Sean John clothing line is in constant evidence), Alvin offers to fix it for free using his camshaft money if she promises to pretend to be his girlfriend for a couple of weeks. Paris is a cheerleader who’s dating an NBA player (named Dru Hilton – which means, through a curiously timely coincidence, that if Paris marries Dru she’d become Paris Hilton), and she manages to turn nerdy Alvin into hot Al practically overnight. Everyone, of course, learns the meaning of true friendship before the movie is over. Comedian Steve Harvey has a particularly amusing turn as Alvin’s father, who in an atypical Hollywood stance, is thrilled to discover that his son might be having sex and proceeds to school him in the playa’s finer points of using a condom. Cannon, the breakout star of last year’s Drumline is solid, although his screen charisma is too strong to ever allow him to be a believable nerd. The film’s dialogue has a way of combining teen appearance concerns with odd product placement. Characters are described as looking like a "Frappuccino with hips," or as "looking better than a butter-leather Prada bag." Love Don’t Cost a Thing, however, looks mostly like the same-old, same-old.