Teen comedies for me have a few hits followed by numerous misses. 'Can't Buy Me Love' is one of those hits for me. People who know me may be surprised at my enjoyment of this flick, but I do hold it dear.
The movie stars Patrick Dempsey as Ronald, a nerdy high school senior who wants nothing more than to be popular. Rather than taking the normal routes of kissing ass, having rich parents, being hot, and excelling at a particular sport, Ronald sees a strange opportunity while shopping for a telescope. Across the mall Ronald spots Cindy Mancini (Amanda Peterson, who's smoking) trying to exchange a wine soaked leather outfit, which happened to be her mom's. The clerk was less than helpful to which led Cindy into near tears considering she wasn't supposed to be wearing it anyways.
Seizing the moment Ronald intervenes and makes Cindy and offer. He will pay for a new outfit if she agrees to pose as his girlfriend for a month. She reluctantly agrees and a fake relationship ensues. While Ronald pseudo dates Cindy he finds himself sitting at the cool table, making friends with people who didn't know his name, and being invited to parties he would normally get beaten up at.
The agreement comes to a close after a month and Ronald becomes everything he despises. He alienates his friends, his studies, and any kind of dignity he had. True to the 80s teeny bopper cliche, Ronald becomes a monster once he gets what he wants. Once the ruse ends he finds himself alone, despised, and miserable.
Of course the film ends happily with everyone learning some life lesson that I guess is supposed to be important, but really the movie is trying to make fun of the high school caste system. The film doesn't exactly hit upon any point of originality nor does it set the bar for teen comedies high, but it does it's job without any pretension. Unlike 'Election', which is a far superior film, 'Can't Buy Me Love' sometimes resorts to be as shallow as the jocks they portray, but while the jocks v nerds rivalry is exaggerated there are some truths as to how superficial and sometimes cruel teenagers can be in trying to simply fit in. The script does insult teenagers and how easily manipulated and trendy they can be, but really adults can be worse. I've never seen a high schooler read Entertainment Weekly or a tabloid.
In high school I was simply average, like most people, which is one social caste that Hollywood largely overlooks. 'Can't Buy Me Love' is not high art by any means, but is a witty look into the often ridiculous cliques people create for themselves. Sure the movie is no 'Lucas', but it does have a very young Seth Green. I guess that's supposed to make up for something, maybe for the lack of gratuitous nudity which is expected in 80s comedies. I don't know where I'm going with this really.
"Nerds, jocks. My side, your side. It's all bullshit. Its hard enough just trying to be yourself" - Ronald Miller