Love Don't Cost a Thing



Missed opportunity full of dubious messages.
  • Review Date: October 31, 2006
  • Rated: PG-13
  • Genre: Comedy
  • Release Year: 2003
  • Running Time: 101 minutes

What parents need to know

Positive messages

Young men are repeatedly told that they should be players, not respecting their female counterparts as people but seeing them instead as objects. Some crude humor.


Tense and uncomfortable scenes.


Some crude sexual references. A father pressures his son to have sex.


Some strong language.


Owning brand-name merchandise is very important for popularity.

Drinking, drugs, & smoking

References to drug use.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that there are plenty of flinch-inducing situations including one where Al's father pressures his son to have sex without any regard to his son's emotional maturity or to the strength of the relationship his son might have. The most painful of these scenes involves Mr. Johnson demonstrating how to put a condom on a bottle with one hand while keeping the attention of an imaginary girlfriend. Young men are repeatedly told that they should be "players", not respecting their female counterparts as people but seeing them instead as objects. Finally, the movie seems to buy into a high school notion of merit, with a person's worth measured by who they are dating and which expensive labels they wear.

Kids say

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What's the story?

Unsatisfied with his nerdy reputation, Alvin Johnson (Nick Cannon) takes dramatic steps to become popular before he graduates from high school. Alvin has saved up enough money to complete the engine he's building to win a contest for a full college scholarship. Meanwhile, popular girl Paris Morgan (Christina Milian) needs exactly the same amount of money to fix her mom's car, which she wrecked. So Alvin makes a deal: Paris must pretend to date him for two weeks. Paris soon transforms Alvin into "Al", who dresses in expensive clothes and hangs out on the "Elite" corridor at school. Gradually, Paris and Al become friends, each finding strength in the other's advice and support. But power goes to Alvin's head and he jeopardizes everything -- including his friendships and his scholarship -- when he places his newly found popularity above all else.

Is it any good?


This update of the 1987 hit Can't Buy Me Love has an African-American cast, but unfortunately this otherwise mediocre bit of cinematic fluff adds some painfully inappropriate plot devices that bring what little energy the movie had to a crashing halt. It's awkward and unpleasant, even smarmy, particularly offensive in a movie for this age group. The only scenes that seem unforced and natural are when Alvin and Paris are on their own, and only because of Christina Milian.

Troy Beyer's awkward direction is another distraction. She shoots the big "son, no matter what, I've always been proud of you" scene lit from below as if Alvin and his father had accidentally wandered onto the set of a Spielberg movie. Even the final "love me as I am" scene when Alvin declares who he is to the applause of the crowd falls flat.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about Paris' view on popularity. They might also want to discuss why Paris was unable to express her aspiration to be more than "an NBA wife" and why her friends might resist the idea of her wanting to be something beyond their ken, such as becoming a songwriter. How does the relationship between Alvin and his father change over the course of the movie?

Movie details

Theatrical release date:December 12, 2003
DVD release date:April 27, 2004
Cast:Christina Milian, Kenan Thompson, Nick Cannon
Director:Troy Beyer
Studio:Warner Bros.
Run time:101 minutes
MPAA rating:PG-13
MPAA explanation:sexual content/humor

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  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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Parent of a 11 year old Written byjsharpe October 17, 2009
What other families should know
Too much sex
Teen, 17 years old Written byMattyWatty556 April 9, 2008


Being a fan of cutsey teen films and gross outs (i.e. AMERICAN PIE), thought this movie was cute and interesting. But I was absolutley appaled by a PG-13 rating on a film that has references to sex, men beinging "playas", and the worst part: a father showing his son how to put a condom on while keeping your girlfriends interest to have sex(WHAT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!). I expected this to be lighthearted, but in return I got an R-Rated, Sexfest, Sean John commercial.
Adult Written byTheTrillonaire August 10, 2014

Funny Comedy not for kids.

What other families should know
Too much violence
Too much sex
Too much swearing
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking


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