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Review by Dustin Putman
½ star out of 4
An urban remake of the cheesy but fun 1987 teen comedy, "Can't Buy
Me Love," "Love Don't Cost a Thing" lifts that film's premise and
generously sprinkles in similar scenes and dialogue exchanges. What
it doesn't do is improve in any way on a motion picture that, let's
face it, wasn't that great to begin with. In comparison to the mean-spirited,
tasteless, stereotypical treatment director Troy Beyer and co-writer
Michael Swerdlick (who also penned the 1987 version) have done to
the materia l, however, "Can't Buy Me Love" is a veritable masterpiece.
Yes, "Love Don't Cost a Thing" is that bad.
High school senior Alvin Johnson (Nick Cannon) has always been considered
a geek by the popular crowd, something he hopes to eradicate when
he offers beautiful classmate Paris (Christina Milian) the money needed
to fix her mom's wrecked car (she was driving it without permission).
In return, Paris will hang out with Alvin for two weeks and help to
raise his cool status. Just as Paris has begun to fall for Alvin,
popularity changes his nice guy personality for the worst, leaving
her and his real friends, Kenneth (Kenan Thompson), Walter (Kal Penn),
and Chuck (Kevin Christy), out in the cold.
"Love Don't Cost a Thing" may outwardly seem like a harmless, fluffy
teen flick, but it is rotten to the core and misogynistic in the extreme.
All of the female characters are presented as one-dimensional twits
who delight in letting their player boyfriends use and then promptly
dispose of them. The rest of the teenage characters are just as poorly
realized and condescending. This might not have been so off-putting
in the long run had the central relationship between Alvin and Paris
been the least bit endearing or fiery, but it isn't. After all, most
of the teenagers in "Can't Buy Me Love" were also stereotypes, but
at its center was the believable and sweet love story between Patrick
Dempsey and Amanda Peterson. They portrayed roles that did have more
than one dimension, who had real interests and ideas, and who made
a natural connection with one another. The moral of the storyto be
yourselfmight have been handled in a syrupy fashion, but at least
it had its heart in the right place. "Love Don't Cost a Thing" seemingly
wants to do the same thing, but its handling of this subject holds
the sincerity of a rabid dog.
Nick Cannon (2002's "Drumline") and Christina Milia n (1999' s "The
Wood") seem to have the capacity for better performances in the future,
but their parts of Alvin and Paris do them zero favors. For a movie's
lead protagonist, Alvin is a despicable hero, and even when he realizes
the mistakes he has made, he doesn't seem genuine when he corrects
them. Paris, meanwhile, rolls her eyes so much at Alvin in the first
act that when she does a 180-degree turn and has supposedly fallen
for him, it seems like nothing more than a cheap necessity of the
plot. Cannon and Milian are given so few scenes to develop their relationship
at the onset that what comes afterward collapses in a pile of dust.
And because Cannon's Alvin is so unlikable, we actually find ourselves
rooting for Paris to ditch him for good and find someone more respectful.
The only actor to escape unscathed in the wreckage is Steve Harvey
(2003's "The Fighting Temptations"), bringing heart and a couple of
laughs to his role of Alvin's father. His sporadic scenes are the
sole bright spot in 100 minutes of worthlessness.
I defy anyone to watch "Can't Buy Me Love" and "Love Don't Cost a
Thing" back to back and tell me with a clear, honest conscience that
this updated version is an improvement. Every scene lifted from "Can't
Buy Me Love" is markedly inferior hereless earnest and constantly
reaching for the lowest common denominator. The dialogue is also laughably
idiotic. "You're off the hizzle," one character says, only for another
to ask Alvin, "What kind of car do you drizzle?" Yep, that's about
the height of intelligence that this movie manages to ever reach.
Even the final repugnant shot suggests that Alvin still hasn't actually
grown as a person, making the entire thing pointless. If remaking
popular '80s teen films for urban audiences is to become a new fad,
let's hope further efforts aren't as irrespon sible as "Love Don't Cost a Thing."
Copyright © 2003 Dustin Putman