It’s unclear why a remake of 1987’s Can’t Buy Me Love was necessary, but Love Don’t Cost a Thing, a hip-hop retelling of that Patrick Dempsey-headlined romantic comedy, serviceably recreates the clique-infested teen culture of an affluent suburban high school. Nerdy pool boy and budding auto engineer Alvin Johnson (Drumline‘s Nick Cannon) desperately wants to be cool, and gets his chance when the most popular girl in school, head cheerleader Paris Morgan (Christina Milian), crashes her mom’s Escalade and doesn’t have the money to repair it. Johnson, sensing an opportunity to finally shed his geek persona and become part of the in crowd, strikes a deal with the fetching Paris—in return for fixing the car, she’ll agree to pose as his girlfriend for two weeks. The successful makeover of Alvin to “Al” requires Johnson to wear gold chains and velour Sean John tracksuits, tame his unruly afro with some braids, and learn to rudely bark orders at women as a sign of his take-charge masculinity. Now a jive-talking stud, Al ditches his friends, Paris, and the tricked-out car engine he was building as a means of getting a college scholarship, only to subsequently learn that being yourself is more important than all the popularity and material wealth in the world. The film is unnecessarily sexualized—Nelly cohort Murphy Lee rhymes on the soundtrack during the open credits about caressing “big asses”—in a vain attempt at instilling the sappy film with ghetto cred, and it doesn’t help matters that Paris’s name conjures up images of that other promiscuous celebrity-of-the-moment named after the City of Lights. Similarly, gays are the target of one too many jokes considering the film is about accepting who you are regardless of your peer group’s potential scorn, and a “Chinese people have no passion in their lives” discussion is both inappropriate and unfunny. Still, with the exception of Steve Harvey’s over-the-top horny father—who gives his son boxes of condoms as a “right of passage” and teaches the kid how to use soul music to his romantic advantage—the unimaginative film takes few detours in recreating the 1987 original for today’s young African-American audience, even retaining that most time-honored tradition of ‘80s teen movies: the climactic group “slow clap.”
Terribly photographed by Chuck Cohen, Love Don't Cost a Thing is a dreary film seriously hungry for color, but that doesn't mean that this is a bad transfer. Flesh tones on this DVD (which preserves the film's original 1.85:1 widescreen) are exceptional, edge halos are nil and blacks are deep. When Alvin officially enters the film's Afterschool Special and adds color to his wardrobe, well, that's when the transfer really shines. The Dolby Digital 5.1 surround track isn't a winner per se, but dialogue is clear and the soundtrack of non-stop hip-hop songs are bassy enough to sometimes distract from the really bad dialogue.
Finally I get to see Paris take center stage in that surprise alternate ending I always wanted to see! If this and several other alternate scenes don't whet your whistle, there's a junket-hoary, 21-minute making-of featurette, music videos for Murphy Lee's "Luv Me Baby" and "Shorty (Put It On The Floor)" with Busta Rhymes, Fat Joe, Chingy and Nick Cannon, and theatrical trailers for Love Don't Cost a Thing, Torque and Looney Tunes: Back in Action.
Since ABC never really pandered to urban crows, now little kids in the hood can have their own After School Special to make them vomit.