You know, the 70s weren’t all that bad, nostalgically speaking — blaxploitation, funky fashions, disco and (now) classic rock… Hell, the 80s were a veritable vacuum of taste by comparison. But that doesn’t stop filmmakers from already revisiting that decade, particularly if there’s a potential buck to be made.
And thus we get a remake of Can’t Buy Me Love.
"Son, it occurs to me that you need some clarification on the phrase ‘slipping her the hog’."
The "urbanized" remake Love Don’t Cost a Thing swaps out skeletal lovelorn geek Patrick Dempsey for the "cred" of Nick Cannon (whatever cred he may conceivably bring to such a film – I only know that Dave Chappelle’s kid loves him) as Alvin, a gawky afroed misfit who cleans pools and attracts derision from the in-crowd. He and his outcast chums (including future Fat Albert Kenan Thompson and Van Wilder’s assistant Kal Penn) spend their spare time applying their excessive intellects to building a happenin’ ride, a project that could also serve as Alvin’s ticket to engineering school. It really only needs one more major part, for which Alvin has been hoarding his pool-cleaning pay.
But when unattainable school goddess Paris (Christina Milian) gets into an accident with her vacationing mom’s Cadillac SUV and realizes she’ll never get it repaired in time on her own, Alvin comes to her rescue. But for purely selfish reasons: in exchange for the $1500 tab, Paris must prostitute herself as his non-invasive girlfriend for two weeks, giving him his first opportunity to hang with the "pretty people".
As the premier school in the Centauri Spiral, Starfleet High prided itself on the diversity of its pupils, which included symbiotic brain-berets from Tortoga VII and ProtoNubian Scowlers.
Paris undertakes her new endeavor with verve, giving him a full fashion makeover (including laughable poodle-perm head-coils) and slowly integrating him into her glamorous and acutely superficial society. Alvin’s father (Steve Harvey), a former smooth operator whose sole characteristic seems to be that he’s a big Al Green fan, is secretly overjoyed with his son’s abrupt fame and gives him genuinely creepy paternal sex advice, going so far as to hand over a giant box of condoms. As Paris actually falls for Alvin, the clueless clown naturally becomes corrupted, blowing off his true friends and taking full advantage of his newfound status before realizing the error of his ways and becoming alienated once again when his scheme is revealed.
"Now… give me… Blue Steel! Not bad."
This offensively amateurish attempted morality tale (from original writer Michael Swerdlick and Let’s Talk About Sex writer/director/actress Troy Beyer) is filled with so many broadly drawn stereotypes, it’s like one long MadTV sketch. And I must be more out of touch than I’d care to admit, as the influence of hip-hop music videos on the youth of today is apparently quite overpowering — these kids are constantly dancing. At parties, at the local hangout, before school, in the bleachers at a basketball game, on the beach… even the Goth kids implausibly join the rump-shaking. There’s a prospective drinking game in this. (And yes, a variation of the original film’s African Anteater Ritual is ham-fistedly included.)
You’ll need to pour Crazy Glue into your ocular sockets to prevent eye-rolling at some of the dialogue. When Alvin sees Paris sauntering down the hall, he proclaims that "She’s like a Frappucino with hips", and when his unpopular chum enters the "cool" kids’ section of school, one of the popular "ballers" warns him "Don’t come down this hallway again — we can’t be havin’ that!" (this same baller later tries to eject them from "his" bleachers, during a game). Littered with lingo like "When you were doing your thizzle earlier, you were off the hizzle," the film is already as outdated as the original it cribbed, if not more so.
It’s not often that forced dialogue requires actual forcing.
I have no idea if Milian is black, Latino or some combination thereof, but… daaaaamn, she’s certainly attractive. But even her skintight clothing and cheerleader routine (Beyer’s rather clunky direction includes no shortage of random booty shots and scantily clad teenaged hoochies) isn’t enough to distract from the fact that what should be the crux of the piece, her ultimate attraction to Alvin, is sudden and arbitrary and exists only to ever-so-slowly progress the film to its predictable climax. Cannon makes for a credible loser, but his transition to "playa" is about as believable as Paul Giamatti: Action Hero.
The left hand of the pre-boyloving, pre-bleached Michael Jackson wax figure seemed to have a mind of its own.
Do yourself a favor and go rent the original Can’t Buy Me Love instead (or just watch one of its countless airings on basic cable), before someone gets the brilliant notion to remake Just One of the Guys.
3.0 out of 10
The anamorphic transfer is generally decent (although the definition could be better), and as most of the film takes place in daylight or well-lit areas the colors are vibrant. And did I mention how good Milian looks?
7.8 out of 10
Christina counts the number of opportunities remaining to her after this and Torque.
Exponentially deeper than the film’s script or message, the thundering bass of the hip-hop soundtrack gets the most audio focus, though the Dolby 5.1 track doesn’t otherwise leave much of an impression. Miraculously, the soundtrack does not include the wretched Jennifer Lopez song that the film’s title quotes.
8.4 out of 10
We’ve got about 12 minutes of deleted scenes (from an already overlong movie), most of which focus on Alvin’s snubbing of his dork friends. The "alternate ending" that’s included basically gives a few extra seconds of the now-happy mismatched couple. The 20 minute making-of promo featurette has interviews with the cast as they highlight all the aspects of their needle-thin characters. On top of that is a pair of music videos from Busta Rhymes (with Chingy, Fat Joe and Cannon) and Murphy Lee, which showcase the type of dancing displayed by teens throughout the film.
Sometimes I’m grateful for the lack of a commentary track.
4.0 out of 10
After he found a prison meal he particularly liked, Tyson lost a bit of his edge…
Cannon looks on and smirks while Milian struggles helplessly as one incredibly heavy earring inexorably drags her gorgeous head to the ground.
She does manage to smile through the pain, brave girl.
2.0 out of 10
THE FLICK: 3.0
THE LOOK: 7.8
THE NOISE: 8.4
THE GOODIES: 4.0
THE ARTWORK: 2.0