Love Don't Cost a Thing

Of all the movies to remake, cheesy 80s movies hardly go to the top of the list. And of all the cheesy 80s movies ever made, Can't Buy Me Love is one of the stranger choices for a remake. Yet, here is Love Don't Cost a Thing, a remake of the 1987 movie, written by Michael Swerdlick, When In Rome, Class Act), who was the screenwriter of the original. In terms of interesting things, that is about as interesting as Love Don't Cost a Thing gets. It is a strictly by-the-numbers movie that goes on autopilot early, and coasts all the way to the end. The only saving grace is that the two stars, Nick Cannon and Christina Milian, are appealing in their limited time on camera. And they both have other careers in music. And so does co-star Melissa Schuman. And so does another co-star, Steve Harvey. Well, sort of. In other words, this movie is a blip on their resumes to show that they can act a little, and to get all their fans to spend money on junk.

Love Don't Cost a Thing overplays so many stereotypes even as it tries to dispel them. The characters are so blatantly good or bad, cool or nerdy. Given that the lives of high schoolers feel more complicated then they did fifteen years ago, this makes the themes and characters almost feel like an anachronism. Alvin Johnson (Cannon, Drumline, Men in Black II) is a nerd. He stutters, is nervous around women, likes computers, is smart, and is working on a car. He has a huge crush on Paris Morgan (Milian, The Wood, American Pie), who will not give him the time of day. She is gorgeous, popular, and a cheerleader. So when she crashes her mother's car, Johnson agrees to pony up the $1500 to repair it, if she will pretend to be his boyfriend. She agrees, because she has no other choice. Alvin doesn't tell her that he needs the money to buy a part for his car that will help ensure his scholarship.

Although her friends are initially horror-stricken, they begin coming around to Alvin. He's now a cool person at school. He changes the way he dresses and speaks. He starts ignoring his old friends (other nerds) to hang out with the jocks. And, he begins to act like a jerk to those around him. And, don't forget, that all the while, Paris slowly begins to fall for him. Since this is an age-old story, it's no stretch to say that he will climb the ladder of popularity, then have a huge fall, then everything will be hunky-dory in the end. However, the way that Swerdlick and co-writer/director Troy Beyer (Let's Talk About Sex) go about everything is clumsy. Yes, everybody knows what is going to happen, but the least they could do is make the movie fun to get through.

Instead, Cannon overacts his way, as both an introverted nerd and an arrogant jock. He really does have some personality in those rare in-between scenes, but so much time is spent with him at either extreme. It is not believable, and is quickly tiring. Milian is on a more even keel, but only because her character is uniformly dull. But they sure do look good! It's the supporting characters that have more life and are more interesting. Harvey (The Fighting Temptations) is amusing as Alvin's father, now obsessed with the fact that his nerdy son may actually get some. It works until the script has his character get mushy at the end. Kenan Thompson (My Boss's Daughter, Master of Disguise) is slowly making the rounds as a sidekick in various sub-par comedies. The good news is that while movies he is in may not be that good, he is consistently amusing. And the biggest surprise of all? Indian-American actor Kal Penn (Malibu's Most Wanted, National Lampoon's Van Wilder) finally gets a part where he doesn't need to speak with an accent.

Haro Rates It: Not That Good.
1 hour, 45 minutes, Rated PG-13 for sexual content/humor.

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