There’s nothing quite so unmagical as the phrase ”based upon a screenplay,” which is code for ”Lower Your Expectations: Inbred Remake Ahead.” At least, that’s the case here: Love Don’t Cost a Thing is to ”Can’t Buy Me Love” as J. Lo is to the Beatles.
The 1987 Patrick Dempsey parable is charming, Reaganomics-minded piffle, where a lifelong loser effectively buys a cheerleader as a sham girlfriend; he becomes slick, soulless, and wildly popular, even as she begins to fall for the real schlemiel. The same thing happens in ”Love,” only minus the high-concept charm and plus gobs of monstrous product placement for General Motors and Sean John. (Oh, yeah, and remember, kids, appearances don’t matter….) Also added are deeply creepy scenes between reformed dork Alvin (”Drumline” star Nick Cannon) and his father (Steve Harvey), an erstwhile player trying to relive his horny glory days through his suddenly magnetic son. Watching daddy teach sonny to use a condom — sensually biting the wrapper off in extreme close-up and then losing himself in pantomimed intercourse as Alvin watches, rapt and revolted — you realize you’re watching a snuff film, where the victim isn’t just teen innocence but teen romance.