Movie Reviews

Movie Review: Can’t Buy Me Love – Patrick Dempsey Half-Naked!!!

Written by Michael Swerdlick
Directed by Steve Las

Of all the teen movies I’ve watched through the years, and especially in the 1980s, there are only a few that really resonated with me.  The Breakfast Club was one of those as was Pretty in Pink.  Another I’d put in the top five would be Can’t Buy Me Love.

Ronald Miller (portrayed by a very young Patrick Dempsey) is a high-school nerd who spends his days mowing lawns somewhere in the suburbs of Arizona.  Cindy (portrayed by Amanda Peterson) is a neighbor who he has a crush on but sees as out of his league.  She’s quite popular and beautiful and travels in the same circles that look down on Ronald and his friends.

One of Ronald’s hobbies is astronomy and he’s been saving for a prized telescope.  Fate crosses Ronald and Cindy’s paths when he has the money and she’s desperate.  Ronald says he will give her the money if she will “date” him for a month, believing this will make him popular.

Cindy initially doesn’t believe her friends are this shallow, but the experience is eye-opening for both of them.  As the month wears on and she observes the changes in her friends towards Ronald (now Ronny), it forces her to take a hard look at herself.  Complicating matters even further is that she is discovering just how sweet and caring Ronny can be.

As much as he had a crush on Cindy, Ronny never really entertains any thoughts of Cindy really liking him.  Hi misreads a few of her attempts to tell him how she really feels, and caught up in his new-found popularity he revels in it, not realizing what he looks like to his old friends as well as Cindy.

Can’t Buy Me Love is a good story about high school cliques and what defines us.  It challenges preconceived notions about people.  As comfortable as Cindy seems to be in her popularity, once she lets her guard down even she admits it’s not all it’s cracked up to be.  After years of dismissing Ronny as nothing more than a nearly-invisible nerd, Cindy sees there’s much more to him than that if she looked beyond the surface.

With all that, there are also plenty of laughs in Can’t Buy Me Love.  Ronny must learn to dance for a school dance and instead of American Bandstand, he ends up with dancing moves out of a National Geographic documentary.  Many of the other laughs come at the expense of Ronny’s incredulous younger brother, Chuckie (portrayed by Seth Green), who’s something of a player himself and can’t quite comprehend what’s happening to the geeky older brother he thought he knew and understood.

It would have been easy for this to deteriorate into a shallow film filled with just teenage hijinks.  Writer Michael Swerdlick apparently had a pretty good script here and thankfully it didn’t get messed with too much.  The story is a fairly smart one with plenty of laughs thrown in, and also gives teens and adults who might watch this a chance for some introspection about their own biases.

The acting is pretty good.  This was the first major role of Patrick Dempsey’s career and it’s a good one.  He has Ronald the nerd and Ronny the popular guy just as believable which isn’t an easy thing to pull off.  He doesn’t feel like an attractive actor dressed up as a nerd, nor does he feel like a geek trying to pose as a popular guy.  Amanda Peterson is a name you’ve probably never heard, and I really can’t understand why.  She does an admirable job here of creating a rich, popular girl who actually is sympathetic. That’s not an easy line to tread and though credit goes to the writing it also has to go to her performance.  The supporting cast is made mostly of people you’ve never heard of, although most do fine with the roles with only a few weak spots.

As far as teen movies go, this is a remarkably good film that doesn’t have the John Hughes name attached to it.  The story is deep while at the same time providing some good laughs and the young actors do a superb job.  Definitely worth checking out!