'80s Movie Month: "Can't Buy Me Love" Review

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A nerdy outcast secretly pays the most popular girl in school one thousand dollars to be his girlfriend.
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'80s Movie Month: "Can't Buy Me Love" Review

Rating: PG-13
Length: 94 minutes
Release Date: August 14, 1987
Directed by: Steve Rash
Genre: Comedy, Drama, Romance

While "Can't Buy Me Love" may be seen as just another romantic comedy from the 1980s, the film has many useful messages that young people can learn from today. Some films stand the test of time, and this movie is one of those. Everybody feels, at some point in their life, that they don't fit in or hang out with the right crowd, but there is only so much that each of us is willing to do to achieve that. "Can't Buy Me Love" shows the lengths some people will go to in order to become popular. However, popularity or coolness may not be all it is cracked up to be, as there is often a price to be paid for leaving one group of friends for another. This film presents such a situation with a few laughs thrown in for fun. Director Steve Rash does a great job of getting the balance right between laughs and a genuine message.

"Can't Buy Me Love" is one of the first movies of Patrick Dempsey's acting career. He has since gone on to star in TV and movies; he plays Dr. Derek Shepherd in the long-running TV series "Grey's Anatomy." As for fellow lead Amanda Peterson, she only acted until the mid-1990s, when she left Hollywood to pursue a regular life.

Ronald Miller (played by Dempsey) is just your average high school nerd who never seems to fit in with the right crowd. Ronald is quite rightly labeled as a geek who has very few friends. He spent most of the past summer mowing lawns so that he could buy a telescope. As Ronald is about to become a senior, he decides that he wants to be one of the cool kids at school. In order to do this, Ronald needs to date the head cheerleader, Cindy Mancini (played by Peterson). Ronald has known her since they were both young kids, yet Cindy has never really noticed him throughout the years.

Not long after Ronald decides to completely change his social standing at school, an opportunity crops up for him to do just that. Cindy needs $1,000 to replace one of her mother's outfits that she ruined at a party. Ronald proposes that he give her the money in exchange for her agreeing to be his girlfriend for a month. Cindy reluctantly agrees simply because she has no other way to buy a new dress for her mother. Complicating matters even more is the fact that Cindy has a boyfriend named Bobby who is away at college.

Ronald's life undergoes a complete transformation in next to no time; he ditches his geek friends and hangs out with all the popular kids at school thanks to his supposed relationship with Cindy. With the help of Cindy, Ronald changes his hairstyle along with most of his clothes. Over the month that they spend together, Cindy and Ronald grow closer without realizing it. On one of the last dates of the month, Cindy feels compelled to kiss Ronald, but he is confused and walks away. The pair goes through a fairly public breakup, and Cindy warns Ronald that popularity is not all it's cracked up to be.

After moving on from Cindy, Ronald quickly becomes one of the most popular guys in school. At a New Year's Eve party, Cindy can take it no more, so she tells everyone the truth about her fake relationship with Ronald. This works spectacularly, but it leaves Ronald with no friends at all. The popular kids want nothing to do with him, while his old friends feel betrayed.

Ronald manages to restore his image after standing up for one of his old friends by saying that they did have a close bond once before. Cindy is impressed that Ronald is finally being true to himself, so she reconciles with him. In the final scene, Ronald asks her to be his prom date, and the two kiss as the closing credits roll.

"Can't Buy Me Love" became the sleeper hit of the summer of 1987. Although the film opened to mixed reviews, it ended up bringing in more than $30 million at the box office. At the Young Artist Awards, Patrick Dempsey won Best Young Actor in a Motion Picture for comedy, while the film was nominated for several other awards. Many years later, in 2003, a remake of the film was released and titled "Love Don't Cost a Thing." The film starred Nick Cannon and Christina Milian, and it did not do as well financially as the original.

Rating: 3 out of 5