Movie #177 2020: Can’t Buy Me Love (1987)

Remember when I reviewed When Harry Met Sally and I told you I’d be diving into more classic rom-com type movies? Well, here’s my next foray into that idea.

Can’t Buy Me Love is one of those classic, unashamedly eighties coming-of-age teen drama movies, not dissimilar to Say Anything or Pretty in Pink. This time round, we follow nerdy lead character Ronald (Patrick Dempsey) who offers $1,000 to the most popular girl – and head cheerleader, Cindy – in school if she agrees to pretend to be his girlfriend for a few weeks. Spurred on by his wish to become popular, Ronald doesn’t realise that sooner rather than later, Cindy has developed real feelings for him, and things go tits up from there.

First of all, I have to quickly point out my main take away from this movie, which is that Patrick Dempsey is literally the Timothée Chalamet of the 1980s, so seeing him play the unattractive loser character is actually hilarious. While he’s not bad at pretending to be such a geek, it’s clear that this particular piece of casting hasn’t aged very well!

Whilst we’re on the cast, this is the most animated you’ll ever see Seth Green in any film or TV show. Though he’s only around 13 in this, he plays the younger sibling to Dempsey’s Ronald with gusto – basically, you can’t even tell it’s him. It’s clear to see from this why Green ended up having a pretty successful career as an adult.

I know what you’re thinking. It’s a little problematic that a movie suggests a girl can be bought like that. I mean, it’s not unlike a PG-13 form of prostitution when you think about it. The obligatory “conflict” section drags on a little too long too, but it’s a cute classic that makes up for its moral ambiguity by the end. In fact, it has to include the mildly unethical part of the storyline in order to teach the audience (mainly its male viewers) the lesson that it sets out to teach.

One facet to Can’t Buy Me Love that really could have done with some work is the music editing. The score and popular music soundtrack are so pain-stakingly constant throughout that it ends up being distracting. I know this was the eighties, and things were cheesy, but this takes the biscuit for cheese. It’s so cheesy, it’s basically camembert.

Set at a school dance, the best sequence of the movie is the one in which the now-popular Ronald begins to perform an African ritual dance that he’s seen on TV. Before long, the entire class is doing the dance, and it provides the main piece of humour within the movie. I found it utterly charming.

With the unabashedly eighties overtones and the most eighties hair you’ll ever witness, Can’t Buy Me Love is a nice movie. It’s nothing extraordinary and isn’t as fondly remembered as similar movies of its time, but it’s a cute, easy watch nonetheless.

Can’t Buy Me Love is available to rent for £2.49 on Amazon.

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