Peter’s Retro Reviews: Can’t Buy Me Love (1987)

April 20, 2015

Can't buy me love movie posterby Peter Nielsen

”Cools, nerds… your side, my side… Man, it’s all bullshit. It’s just tough enough to be yourself!”

I haven’t done a romantic teen comedy in a while, so I thought it would be nice, at least for this week, to return to that warm and fuzzy feeling again. Sometimes we need one of these teen comedies, especially one from the 80’s, to put a big silly grin on your face, so why not return to one I haven’t seen in a long while?

I used to watch Can’t Buy Me Love all the time, back in the day, and now, after watching it again, I can understand why… it’s a friggin’ good movie!

Ronald Miller, played by Patrick Dempsey (Coupe De Ville, Happy Together, Loverboy), is a nerd and kind of a social outcast who’s saving up money by mowing lawns for the “rich” families. He’s been doing it for a while, so all of them kind of know who he is, but no one really sees him, if you know what I mean? One of the lawns belongs to Mrs. Mancini and her beautiful daughter, Cindy, whom Ronald has been enamored of for some time.

"The cool kids!"

“The cool kids!”

She’s played by Amanda Peterson (Explorers, Listen To Me), who was actually only 15 years old while shooting the movie; Patrick Dempsey was 20. She was a very beautiful and talented young lady and is actually very good in Can’t Buy Me Love. After a bunch of movie- and TV-roles, she “retired” from the entertainment industry in 1995.

Cindy Mancini is a spoiled and irresponsible brat; she’s the captain of the cheerleaders and dates the obligatory football jock. All the classic tropes, right? At the start of the movie she returns from a shopping spree with her friends, and her mother scolds her because she wasn’t allowed to use ALL the credit cards!

Cindy and Ronald

Cindy and Ronald

Ronald isn’t too happy with his “social status” and would like to know how it feels to hang with the cool clique. He has no idea how to do this, until one day, an opportunity presents itself in the form of a white suede dress. The dress belongs to Cindy’s mother, who’s very protective about it and won’t lend it to her daughter to wear at a party. Cindy, being who she is and wanting to impress her friends, borrows the dress anyway, knowing full well how hard it is to clean suede, if you get stains on it. And, yes, you guessed it… of course she spills red wine on it!

Desperate, she takes it back to the store and tries to exchange it for a new one, but of course the store owner refuses. The only way to get a new one is to buy one and that’s $1000, which Cindy doesn’t have. Ronald, who’s at the mall to buy a new telescope for the money he’s earned mowing lawns, sees Cindy’s desperation and makes her an offer. In exchange for him buying a new dress, Cindy will pretend to be going out with him for a month and this, according to Ronald, will make him popular!

"You shit on MY house!"

“You shit on MY house!”

Believe it or not; the plan actually works, and Ronald soon finds himself walking the halls of the school with the popular crowd. By spending a lot of time together during this month, Cindy warms up to Ronald, and the two actually become friends… maybe even more than friends! But the popularity goes to Ronald’s head and he unfortunately becomes kind of a douche-bag, and starts neglecting and alienating his friends… and eventually even Cindy.

Can’t Buy Me Love was directed by Steve Rash (The Buddy Holly Story) and has a good strong cast too. Apart from our two leads, Amanda Peterson and Patrick Dempsey, we have Courtney Gains (Secret Admirer, The ‘Burbs) as Kenneth, Ronald’s best friend, and he’s great in this movie; the two have some good scenes together. Ronald’s dad is played by Dennis Dugan from The Howling, among many, and Chuckie Miller (Ronald’s kid brother) is played by a young Seth Green. You know… from all three Austin Powers movies and Idle Hands, or from doing voice work on Robot Chicken and Family Guy. In a very small part as Fran, one of Cindy’s friends, I recognized Amy Dolenz from She’s Out Of Control; another movie I haven’t seen in a long while.

A young Seth Green as Chuckie

A young Seth Green as Chuckie

I really, really like Can’t Buy Me Love and I am actually going to return to it more often than I have in the past years. Holy Crap, I can’t even remember the last time I watched it; it’s been that long! It has all the ingredients needed to make a great 80’s romantic teen comedy… yes, even the obligatory awkward dance scene, but trust me… this one HAS to be seen to be believed! I only have three words for you… African anteater ritual! Yeah, there’s no way I can explain it, you’re just going to have to watch it!

Ronald's fancy new set of wheels!

Ronald’s fancy new set of wheels!

We even have the “slow clap” in Can’t Buy Me Love! Yup, you know what I’m talking about, right? That awkward clap that doesn’t really fit in… but still does! I had actually forgotten about it, but as I was watching the movie the other day, and the moment came… just before the clapping started, I found myself thinking: “Oh, yeah… Here we go!” You gotta love it, right?

The movie also brings up the issues about social status in the school system and about “fitting in”, and how stupid it really is. The quote I opened this review with sums it up perfectly, and that’s where the heart and warm fuzzy comes in, because both Cindy and Ronald learn something along the way… Be honest, be yourself and trust your feelings… and good things will happen to you!

And that’s the positive vibe I’ll leave you with this week, my friends! Until next time, please leave your thoughts in the comment section below!


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