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love dont cost a thing
Click for full sized poster

Love Don't Cost A Thing

Starring Nick Cannon and Christina Milian
Screenplay by Troy Beyer and Michael Swerdlick; based on the screenplay Can't Buy Me Love by Michael Swerdlick
Directed by Troy Beyer

IN SHORT: For lower digit teens. Parents need not worry. [Rated PG-13 for Sexual Content and Sexual Humor. 100 minutes]

We've seen it in the demographics over the last ten years: films with predominantly black casts don't tend to win the dollars of Caucasian audiences. Some are built to do that, just as other genres are built for a particular viewing target. We plant and view not only because it's our job but because any of those genre flicks good enough to appeal to anyone outside of the target are worth noting. Love Don't Cost A Thing tries its best to be accessible to be the latter and pretty much succeeds. All in all, the film presents a fairly average and easy to follow story of a geek who'd like to be part of the high school in-crowd. There's a variant on this kind of story every other year and its always new to someone. Only when the film kicks into modern day kidspeak, in its final third, were we were lost in the verbal dust. Those that feel like it may call us an old fart and save their time emailing disses to us.

As for the demographic casting, this film is completely accessible to all audiences until it hits those last couple of scenes, when translation is required. Kids won't have any problems with it. As best as we can get from context, neither is there anything so radical introduced in that language that parents should think twice about letting the younger kids see the film. Love Don't Cost A Thing is, up until that point, a simple story that is about as true to life as anything anyone could make up.

In every high school there are geeks and freaks and cool kids. Alvin Johnson (Nick Johnson) is a geek whose specialty is engineering. Specifically automotive design work. Needing $1500 to buy a high tech camshaft for a car he's building for a GM sponsored competition, Alvin has busted his hump cleaning pools. He doesn't sit and mope about his miserable love life because there's been no one so interested that he's got any reason to sit around pining. That doesn't mean that he's never noticed Paris Morgan (Christina Milian), the finest, coolest and most unobtainable girl in school. Paris probably hasn't noticed Alvin but that's no loss to her. Her world centers around her mother's car, which she is not allowed to drive. Mom went out of town. Paris drove the car and smacked up the front end. Mom's home in two days.

So Paris and Alvin get to the auto body shop at the same time. Alvin to pick up his $1500 camshaft. Paris, desperate to fix mom's car before she gets back in two days. The mechanic puts the kibosh on that, needing two weeks to do the work and $1500 for the parts.the time wreck, offered to front for the parts and do the labor if only the fine girl would take his arm for the next couple of weeks as a pseudo girlfriend. Thus, his entrance into the cool crowd. There's no sex involved, Paris makes that clear, and Alvin accepts the terms. He also changes his preferred form of address to "Al."

Image is all that Al needs. If everyone thinks he's a "playa" than he can be the man his father Clarence (Steve Harvey) once was. Clarence has all the appearance of a beat down, broke down man. He still wears the cool clothes that were all the rage back in his day -- and, yeah, those Quiana Rayon shirts were incredibly comfortable back in the day but they look real dumb after thirty years wear -- but he knows what's important and he loves his son. That's why he's been keeping a very special box filled to the brim with important stuff that grown men need, waiting for the day to come when he can pass down his advice and those necessities to his beloved son.

Clarence doesn't know much about expiration dates but, more important, writer/director Troy Beyer restrains actor Harvey from adding any kind of comedy to the mix. What comedy does appear is thanks to support provided by Al's semi-doofus friend Walter (Kenan Thompson, instantly recognized by any of the 'target demo who's watched the dude and partner Kel on Nickelodeon). It's not enough to drive non-teens into the theater but nothing to make those of parental age who have already had that "talk" with their kids worry about inappropriate storylines.

On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Ten Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to Love Don't Cost A Thing, he would have paid . . .


Average is average and Love Don't Cost A Thing is a whole lot more of stuff we've seen a whole lot of over the last zillion years. As we wrote above, it's always new to someone.

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The Cranky Critic website is Copyright © 1995  -  2017  by Chuck Schwartz. Articles by Paul Fischer are Copyright © 1999 - 2006 Paul Fischer. All images, unless otherwise noted, are property of,©, ®, their respective studios and are used by permission. All Rights Reserved. Not to be used or copied for any commercial purpose. Academy Award(s) and Oscar®(s) are registered trademarks and service marks of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.