Here are some signs that you’re getting older: 1) attending the graduation of kids you babysat in high school… 2) watching your childhood pop culture icons on VH1’s “I Love the 70s” and “I Love the 80s”… 3) and seeing a movie that is a remake of one that you originally saw in high school.
“Love Don’t Cost a Thing” is a remake of the forgettable 1987 teenage romance “Can’t Buy Me Love” with Patrick Dempsey. I can’t believe it’s been long enough to remake it. This time out of the gate, it has a hip-hop feel instead of the Olivia Newton John fashion sense from 1987.
Alvin Johnson (Nick Cannon) is a nerdy high school student whose big interests are computers and auto shop. In fact, with three other nerdy friends, he’s building the ultimate engine for a GM contest. In order to install one of the critical parts, he has to shell out $1500 to buy it. However, he learns that Paris Morgan (Christina Milian), the best looking and most popular girl in school, needs $1500 to fix her car. Lucky for Alvin, he works in the auto repair shop and happens to have $1500 burning a hole in his pocket.
Alvin offers Paris a deal – he’ll fix her car and pay for the $1500 in parts, but she has to pretend to be friends with him and make him more popular. Reluctantly, Paris agrees to the deal. The two start to hang out in school to the bewilderment of much of the student body. However, with a little help from popularity by association and a total Paris make-over, Alvin finds himself becoming one of the most popular guys in school.
I actually think that “Love Don’t Cost a Thing” is better than the original (in comparison to a single viewing back in 1987). That’s not saying a whole lot because “Can’t Buy Me Love” wasn’t anything great. Still, this new version is simple, good fun. It stayed true to the original and successfully modernized it. Don’t get me wrong. It’s your basic high school angst film with a romantic comedy twist thrown in. I found it cute. There are some rough spots, of course, but the movie has a lot of heart.
Director Troy Beyer and cinematographer Chuck Cohen do some pretty neat tricks with the camera without making the movie feel like it was directed by David Fincher crack. It doesn’t take you out of the moment, but for the cinemaphile, it at least has some neat shots to watch.
Christina Milian is a relative newcomer to the screen. She’s got a hefty list of credits, but this is her first chance to really jump out into the spotlight. Milian is a beautiful girl and holds her own as the love interest. If she plays her cards right, she could become a star in her field.
Steve Harvey is absolutely hilarious as Alvin’s under-sexed, over-horny dad. His uncomfortably inappropriate discussion of sex with his son put to shame any of the teen angst flavor of Eugene Levy in the American Pie movies.
“Love Don’t Cost a Thing” is not high art. It is not going to win any Oscars or make anyone’s careers. Heck, it may not even be remembered six months from now. But it’s still a fun movie. It accomplishes exactly what it sets out to do. It’s a great first date movie.
Considering some of the celluloid trash that is reeking up the theaters this Christmas – including The Cat in the Hat, “Timeline” and The Missing – “Love Don’t Cost a Thing” deserves some points for just being what it needs to be. Nothing more, but nothing less either.
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