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Love Don't Cost a Thing

19 December 2003 | The Hollywood Reporter | See recent The Hollywood Reporter news »


Friday, Dec. 12

Owing its tenuous existence to the fondly recalled 1987 romantic comedy "Can't Buy Me Love", the instantly forgettable "Love Don't Cost a Thing" may have been given a hip-hop makeover (swapping the Beatles song reference for one by J.Lo), but despite being all dressed up, it has nowhere to go.

A few things have been lost in the suburban-to-urban transition, like any kind of involving storytelling or relatable characters or the slightest hint of a creative pulse outside of the cut-and-paste filmmaking style employed by director-screenwriter Troy Beyer.

Obviously it's not the kind of thing that could ever be mistaken for a critics' film, but even with "Drumline" star Nick Cannon on board, the Warner Bros. Pictures release is going to find itself going up against Universal's already established "Honey" for a piece of the same young urban female demo.

Taking over for Patrick Dempsey in the original, Cannon is Alvin Johnson, a card-carrying high school nerd who works part-time as a pool boy in order to raise enough cash to finish building the engine he has designed which will hopefully earn him a college scholarship.

But those plans fall by the wayside when the ultra-fine and timely named Paris (Christina Milian) wrecks her mother's Cadillac Escalade. When she can't come up with the $1,500 for the repair, Alvin steps in with a possible solution -- he'll front the cash with his savings and in return, Paris has to pretend to be his girlfriend for two weeks.

Faced with either Alvin or the wrath of her mother, Paris opts for the former. And while she gradually warms to him, Alvin, on the other hand, turns into big player on campus and is determined to make up for lost time at any cost.

It turns out Alvin's dream engine isn't the only thing that's been cobbled together from discarded parts.

As written and directed by Beyer (whose credits include "Let's Talk About Sex" and the screenplay for "B.A.P.S".), the production is a haphazard rendering of the original Michael Swerdlick script that's incapable of sticking to any one tone or character motivation long enough to give the viewer any reason to care about the outcome.

Cannon, who gave such a committed and focused performance in the sleeper hit "Drumline", seems to be trotting out a few different characters he never got a chance to play on his Nickelodeon sketch comedy program. There's never any convincing through-line in his transformation.

Steve Harvey gets a chance to flesh out his old-school-embracing stand-up persona as Cannon's Al Green-idolizing mack daddy dad, who teaches his son the finer art of condom installation.

His handful of scenes provide the picture with its few funny moments, but like so many other elements of "Love Don't Cost a Thing", they feel like they belong in other, better movies.

Love Don't Cost A Thing

Warner Bros. Pictures

Alcon Entertainment presents

a Burg/Koules production


Director: Troy Beyer

Screenwriters: Troy Beyer and Michael Swerdlick

Based on the screenplay "Can't Buy Me Love" by Michael Swerdlick

Producers: Andrew A. Kosove

Broderick Johnson, Mark Burg, Reuben Cannon

Executive producer: Oren Koules

Director of photography: Chuck Cohen

Production designer: Cabot McMullen

Editor: David Codron

Costume designers: Christine Peters, Jennifer Mallini

Music: Richard Gibbs


Alvin Johnson: Nick Cannon

Paris Morgan: Christina Milian

Clarence Johnson: Steve Harvey

Walter: Kenan Thompson

Kenneth: Kal Penn

Chuck: Kevin Christy

Yvonee: Nichole Robinson

Zoe: Melissa Schuman

Ted: Al Thompson

Running time -- 105 minutes

MPAA rating: PG-13 »

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