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Can't Buy Me Love Cover
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Tagline: Ronald is making an investment in his senior year. He's hiring the prettiest cheerleader in school to be his girlfriend.

Preshow Entertainment: NOT NECESSARILY THE NEWS
Dr. McTeeny Stars In
A Cliched, Formulaic
Yet Very Funny Teen Comedy

For the Preshow Entertainment, we watched an episode of NOT NECESSARILY THE NEWS, HBO's fast paced news parody show. It was a clip and sketch hybrid (think THE DAILY SHOW meets LAUGH IN), and home to Rich Hall's wildly popular Sniglets (words that should be in the dictionary, but aren't). They'd show topical news clips and add their own narration, sort of like a "you write the caption" thing. Most of the clips were pretty funny (the show had a great following, people still mention it today), and its quick pacing made the less funny ones pass by. And since it was an advert-free venue, they added their own commercial parodies.

A topical show from 25 years ago, NNTN is now a time capsule, as evidenced by Libya and Edwin Meese jokes. The Castro joke, however, is something you'd see today. Based on the British show NOT THE 9 O'CLOCK NEWS, NNTN was a breeding ground for many SIMPSONS writers, and also helped pave the road for the sarcastic/deadpan/topical humor that's so prevalent today.

Several centuries ago I had rented an office from NNTN's production company MOFFITT-LEE and saw all the episodes (as well as FRIDAYS!) on a shelf. Each day I wanted to ask if I could dub them, but I didn't. And now I'm stuck with just one or two episodes of both shows.

And Now, Our Feature Attraction:

In 1987, CAN'T BUY ME LOVE, which could have been pitched as a "beauty and the geek" story (but not by Ashton Kutcher, who was 9 years old) hit the theaters. It was before geeks took over the world, and when they were actually looked at as...geeks. This is the story of one of those geeks - high school senior Ronald Miller (Patrick Dempsey). Ronald mows lawns to save up for a $1000 telescope, and his Saturday night card games with his brotherhood of geeks is the highlight of the week. One night at the game he wonders (aloud, naturally) what it would be like to hang out with the cool kids. How would it feel to go to the home games and not sit in the visitor's section.

Ronald (Patrick Dempsey) Shows Cindy the Money
Meanwhile, on the other side of the high school food chain (and cafeteria) sits head cheerleader Cindy Mancini (Amanda Peterson). Cindy gets wine spilled on her mother's suede outfit, the same outfit she was forbidden to wear. To buy a new one, Cindy would have to spend $1000. A deal is struck; Ronald will give Cindy his $1000 telescope money if she pretends to go out with him, thus making him instantly popular. I know you're thinking you can now write the rest of the movie, and maybe you can. But underneath it all is the story of being true to yourself. That's what the movie is really about.

Ronnie and Cindy (Amanda Peterson) at lunch
So Ronald's now Ronnie the Popular. But be careful what you wish for, for popularity may not be all it's cracked up to be. You have to work at it (Cindy's words exactly). Cindy coaches Ronnie by changing his wardrobe and attitude...and presto! Now he gets to sit with the jocks, and suddenly all the hot girls want him. He's so in that even things that could undermine his plan, like the school dance (probably the classic set piece from the movie) backfire in his favor, and cement his coolosity even more.

In one (low-)key scene Cindy sees Ronald not as a geek, but as the hard working, sensitive, and righteous kid that he is. While watching him wash her car, she realizes that all she does is "shop and hang out." He tells her she can do anything she wants...anything she is passionate about. And you can see it hit her. The cool girl now has every reason to fall for this guy. Especially when he takes her to that most romantic of places - the airplane graveyard. Sounds wrong, but it's a swoon-worthy scene. Because at this moment these two are so close to understanding each other, yet as far away as the moon they're looking at through Ronnie's makeshift telescope.

Ronnie's smartass kid brother Chuckie is played by smartass Seth Green (he was 13, yet actually looks like he does today). He's pretty awful in this movie, with over the top acting and his trophy for the 1987 Fakest Laugh Award. But somehow I still liked him.

Cliches are not rare in CBML, but remember, in 1987 some were not yet cliches. Most notably the Slow Clap; you know, when one person claps, then one by one everyone joins in. The Slow Clap was actually pioneered a year and a half earlier in that treasure of a film LUCAS, as well as parodied in NOT ANOTHER TEEN MOVIE.

CAN'T BUY ME LOVE, originally titled BOY RENTS GIRL (both pretty good titles) was directed by Steve Rash, who continues helming teen movies today (the straight-to-dvd BRING IT ON franchise). Besides the 2003 remake (more on this in a moment), CAN'T BUY ME LOVE remains writer Michael Swerdlick's only feature film.

Ronald & Cindy Ride Off Into the Sunset
At the time, Dempsey was riding high as the poor man's John Cusack/late '80s teen comedy king (MEATBALLS III, IN THE MOOD, SOME GIRLS, LOVERBOY). He's quite good in this movie. Just watch his face or listen to his tone. His character is clear. The same can be said for Amanda Peterson, a Basinger-ette of a cutie who stole many critics' and moviegoers' hearts. It's great that Patrick Dempsey has had an against-all-odds comeback. I wish I could say the same for Amanda Peterson, who disappeared in a haze of rumors ranging from "she left the business and lived happily ever after" to "drug problems". Me, I like to believe she's hanging out at a Starbuck's somewhere with Emily Longstreth (see write-up for THE BIG PICTURE).

CBML is 20 years old, yet works just fine today. I'm not sure that will be said for its "urbanized" remake LOVE DON'T COST A THING. Even it-boy/hottie Nick Cannon and adora-girl Christina Milian couldn't jump start it. It didn't suck, but it just kind of layed there. I mean, you know it's trouble when they swap out a Beatles title for a J. Lo title.

CAN'T BUY ME LOVE knows its boundaries and for the most part stays within them, only occasionally getting too silly or too sappy. It's certainly not the freshest conceit, but its tone is pleasant and honest making it an enjoyable movie about who we are in high school. And okay, sure, I was geeky in high school, but never once did I think of renting a girl. Oh, how I wish I had.

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