In 1987 I sat down to watch director Steve Rash's romantic teen comedy "Can't Buy Me Love". To this day I still fondly remember the movie and have watched it many times since. Fine characterisations & winning performances make it work. It was the first major film I had seen young actor Patrick Dempsey perform in. I thought he was a major talent. From "Can't Buy Me Love" onwards I have made an effort to watch his films. Patrick Dempsey is a charming actor with a fine flair for comedy.
In "Can't Buy Me Love" Patrick Dempsey plays lovable geek Ronald Miller, the unpopular guy in school who would like to fit in with the so-called in-crowd of popular jocks and cheerleaders. Dempsey could only dream of one day maybe dating the most popular girl in school, Cindy Mancini (played equally as brilliant by then-newcomer Amanda Peterson). Dempsey already mows her family's lawn but has not yet made an impression on her. Cindy & her friends virtually don't even know of his existence. But their ignorance of him is about to change. One night at a party Cindy is wearing her mother's suede outfit without permission. The unthinkable happens to Cindy, a popular jock-friend accidentally spills red wine on her clothes. She now has the dilemma of trying to replace the outfit for her mother, without her knowing, but a new one is priced at an extravagant $1,000 dollars, a price for which a young high school girl can simply not afford. She even offers to work for the shopkeeper after school everyday until she can afford to pay for a new one, but he tells her this is not possible. Nearby in the shopping centre Dempsey notices what's going on whilst shopping for a scientific telescope. He decides to part with his hard earned lawn mowing money to pay for Cindy's outfit. The deal however, is for her to spend the next month going out with him at school & thus Mrs. Popularity will turn geek Ronald into Mr. Popularity. She agrees and there we have it, the premise for a delightfully enjoyable teen comedy.
In some parts of the world "Can't Buy Me Love" is alternatively known as "Boy Rents Girl". "Can't Buy Me Love" works well on many different levels. The plot is simple but effective. The acting, direction & script are above average for a teen film. The film deals with many issues, fitting in with the popular crowd, first-time love, discrimination, friendship, loyalty, acceptance & simply learning just to be yourself & don't try to act like someone your not.
"Can't Buy Me Love" is charming, fast-paced & features an excellent supporting cast. Dennis Dugan, star of the Walt Disney classic "The Spaceman & King Arthur" (aka "The Unidentified Flying Object") plays Dempsey's father. In recent years Dugan has become a director. He has made the Adam Sandler comedies "Happy Gilmore" & "Big Daddy", along with Jason Biggs' "Saving Silverman" (aka "Evil Woman"). Seth Green plays Dempsey's younger troublemaking brother to excellent comedic effect. Those of you that have seen the "Austin Powers" films will remember Seth playing Dr Evil's son Scott Evil. Also, another plus for 80's teen fans is the brief appearance of Ami Dolenz, the "She's Out of Control" star & daughter of Monkee's drummer Mickey Dolenz. Ami appears throughout the movie in a few scenes, most notably the one where Cindy's outfit gets ruined.
Another major feature of "Can't Buy Me Love" is its great soundtrack. From the excellent Beatles title track, to "Secret Agent Man" to Billy Idol's "Dancin' With Myself" to the classic Beach Boys track Surfin' Safari, we have a soundtrack that adds atmosphere & blends in well with the storyline.
There are many highlights in "Can't Buy Me Love" but the highlight in the film for me & possibly a highlight for anyone who has ever seen it is the "African Ant Eater Ritual" performed by Patrick Dempsey at the school dance. No matter how many times I see it, that sequence always brings a smile to my face. From touching moments at the aeroplane graveyard to the rise & demise of a wannabe "Mr. Popularity", "Can't Buy Me Love" has every ingredient a good teen comedy needs. Don't miss this affectionately remembered gem of a film. A real charmer, that made a teen movie star out of the one and only "Patrick Dempsey". "Can't Buy Me Love" has rightfully earned a place as a 1980's teen comedy classic.