Love Don't Cost a Thing (2003)

Genres - Comedy  |   Sub-Genres - Romantic Comedy, Teen Movie  |   Release Date - Dec 12, 2003 (USA)  |   Run Time - 100 min.  |   Countries - United States  |   MPAA Rating - PG13
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Review by Derek Armstrong

It has the misfortune of being named after a Jennifer Lopez song, but otherwise, Love Don't Cost a Thing is a tight little urban remake of Can't Buy Me Love. In fact, certain lines of dialogue are cut and pasted word for word, but that just increases the positive associations for those fond of the original. Though the intended audiences don't overlap, the teen-movie truths are universal -- whether it's Patrick Dempsey or Nick Cannon, they both need to check themselves before they wreck themselves. Love Don't Cost a Thing is as joyful as it is because of Cannon's charismatic performance as Alvin Johnson. He's affectionately geeky at the start, and his caricature of the bling-bling "playa" stops just short of offensive stereotypes. The same can be said of Steve Harvey as Alvin's father. Capable of really grating, here Harvey finds just the right pitch for the role of Alvin's overzealous sex coach, including a scene in which he humorously outlines the potential usage scenarios for a shoebox full of prophylactics. Jokes about condoms notwithstanding, the film takes a sweetly optimistic view of modern teenagers, racially integrating their social groups wherever possible (Alvin's three best friends are white, black, and Indian), and rarely offering any hint of real violence. What's more impressive is that director Troy Beyer goes well beyond the minimum competence required of her. She sets her camera up in ways that challenge the norm, including filming a conversation among popular kids by placing the camera inside the microwaves and pantry cabinets they open during home ec class. Love Don't Cost a Thing is no classic -- in fact, it's not even as good as the guilty pleasure that inspired it. But it's a lot better than it needed to be, and paints outside the numbers enough to seem pretty satisfying.