He went from, like, totally geek to totally chic!

Unfortunately, I'm not as smart as Dave, so instead of spending my hungover Sunday watching movies I'd selected from a video store, I spent my hungover Sunday watching movies I could find on television. Thus it was that I gave away an hour and a half of my life to Love Don't Cost a Thing, which some of you may recall was the Nick Cannon remake of the 1987 movie Can't Buy Me Love.

Some people would no doubt argue that remaking this movie was a curious choice because the original wasn't all that good. But those people are idiots. The reason remaking this movie wasn't a good idea is the same reason people made funny faces when Gus Van Sant announced he was remaking Psycho. Because the original is fucking perfect.

Okay, granted, Can't Buy Me Love isn't going to be making the AFI Top 100 list anytime soon. But I can't help but love it. And when I'm hungover and glued to the couch, finding Can't Buy Me Love on TBS or USA is akin to putting on a pair of pants and realizing there's twenty bucks in the pocket.

For any of you poor souls who have not seen Can't Buy Me Love, here is it's basic plot: Ronald Miller (played by a young, goofy looking Patrick Dempsey) is a high school geek who mows the lawn of the Mancini family and is in love from afar with beautiful Cindy Mancini (played by Amanda Peterson, who, because life is unfair, fell off the face of the earth instead of becoming a superstar). Ronald spends a lot of time on his riding mower watching longingly as Cindy zips around in her white VW convertible (the car of choice for every hot girl circa 1987). Then Fate steps in. Cindy ruins her mother's white suede dress (remember, this is 1987) that she wasn't supposed to have borrowed in the first place. Ronald happens to see her in the mall, and he makes her an offer she can't refuse: he'll pay for the new dress, instead of buying the telescope he's had his eye on, if she will pretend to be his girlfriend for one month.

Hilarity ensues, and everyone learns important lessons about life and love, such as Being Popular is Harder Than It Looks, High School Kids Are Essentially Sheep, and If Your Boyfriend Is a Star Athlete He'll Turn Into a Giant Asshole As Soon As He Goes Off To College, If He Wasn't Already One To Begin With.

Can't Buy Me Love is highly entertaining for many reasons: the people wear funny late-1980s clothing, it features a little-kid Seth Green as Ronald's annoying younger brother, Amanda Peterson is exceedingly easy on the eyes and a surprisingly sympathetic heroine, and Patrick Dempsey is fabulous, both as the geeky Ronald and the grating Ronnie, who lets his newfound popularity go to his head and becomes a self-centered prick.

Love Don't Cost a Thing follows the same basic plotline, only the details have been tweaked, mostly in unimportant ways: it's a car, not a dress, that gets wrecked; Nick Cannon is a pool boy instead of a lawn jockey; he works on cars instead of looking through telescopes, etc. etc. And, of course, Love Don't Cost a Thing is ostensibly a more "urban" telling of the same story, since most of its key characters are black. But it's urban in only the most superficial, inconsequential ways.

The more important difference is that Love Don't Cost a Thing strips all the heart out of the original. The cast members (all pretty enough to look at) are just going through the motions. Nick Cannon stutters and stammers around for the first thirty minutes of the movie like he can't wait to make his transformation into the Cool Kid. And then he makes that transformation in one scene. Which pretty much illustrates the problem with this movie: the emotional arc of the original rests on that transformation, and yet here it's given your stereotypical "nerd-gets-makeover" treatment. (And yes, I realize some people will think it's ridiculous that I've used the term "emotional arc" to describe Can't Buy Me Love, but to them I say: you clearly have no soul.)

The only redeeming thing in the movie is the performance of Steve Harvey as Nick Cannon's dad, who's seemingly stuck in the 1970s. He dances around the house to soul music and gives his son tips on how to score with the ladies. Whereas the parents in the original were pretty much just scenery.

But other than that, it was pretty horrid, and had me longing for the original.


Lesley said...

Are there people out there who don’t like Can’t Buy Me Love? Do they also not like chocolate, puppies and breathing clean air? I can’t believe such people exist.

TMC said...

Lesley, you had me up until this "clean air," crap. I hate it. Can't stand breathing it Chocolate and puppies, good. Chocolate-covered puppies, awesome. But fresh air? Fuck that.

Lesley said...

Okay then, beer. Chocolate, puppies and beer.

TMC said...

Now you're talking.

Mike said...

No surprise, I guess, that the guy from Philly doesn't like clean air. When you moved to Iowa, I'm surprised your chemical-filled lungs didn't immediately fold in on themselves.

TMC said...

Well, Mike, now the guy from Philly doesn't like you either. You just made the enemies list.