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A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
While intended to be a comment on the inherent cruelty and stupidity of high school cliques, the movie doesn't really go as far as it should in showing this idea. A "nerd" buys off the popular cheerleader to get in with the "in crowd." As he goes through his own ups and downs with this quest, the dated '80s humor undercuts the message for contemporary audiences. For instance, bullies don't really get their comeuppance, "nerds" are called names like "tards" and "dorks," a fat-shaming joke is written in to the movie when a large girl approaches the lead character and tells him "you could have had me for $49.95," "jocks" objectify women at booze-fueled parties.
Positive Role Models
No real positive role models.
Violence & Scariness
High school bullying: "Jocks" steal lunches in the cafeteria, shove kids in the hallway, threaten to beat up "nerds." Popular kids vandalize a home of a less popular kid by throwing a "s--t bomb"-- a bag filled with dog excrement that explodes and smears feces all over the front door.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Kissing, references to off-screen sex acts. High school girls in underwear. Teen boys use terms like "nailed" when talking about having sex. Teens shown in beds at parties, no nudity. Erection joke made concerning a camera. A female character takes off her shirt in a car (shown from shoulders up) and asks a boy to touch her.
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Regular profanity, sexual innuendo, and name-calling. "F--k.". Variations on "s--t." "D--k." "A--hole." "Badass." "Damn." Unpopular kids in high school are called "tards" and "dorks." When the lead character dances badly at the prom, a teen watching says, "He must be in Special Ed." Talk of how a girl was "nailed."
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Products & Purchases
Teens drink clearly-marked cans of Budweiser. Teens eat Doritos.
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Teens drinking freely at parties, a drunken confession affects the plot. The female lead character binge drinks vodka at a party, stumbles around, slurs her speech, creates a scene. Punch spiked at a party.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Can't Buy Me Love is a 1987 teen comedy in which a young Patrick Dempsey plays a nerd who tries to buy his way into high school popularity. Strong language is thrown around in a casual way -- not only profanity like "f--k" and "s--t" but also name-calling like "tards" and "dorks" and sexual innuendo like "nailing." There are a lot of sexual references and some crude jokes and comments about sex. High-school girls are shown in their underwear. The premise of the movie involves a popular girl dating a nerdy boy for money, and there are some references to prostitution. There are a few scenes where high school age kids drink, with no consequences from authority figures. A main character, a good student, starts to ignore his studies and suffers no consequences. There are few speaking roles for minorities, and a heavy reliance on stereotypes for the plot development (a nerd/ cool kid rivalry). Overall, while the movie attempts to point out the absurdity of high school cliquedom, it's too rooted in the '80s to make that message clear to contemporary audiences. For instance, besides use of terms like "tards," there is a fat-shaming scene in which a large teen girl approaches the lead character and tells him, "You could have had me for $49.95," and a scene when Dempsey tries to sit in the cafeteria at the skate-punk table and they immediately flee, leaving the popular kids to laugh mockingly about how he can't even find acceptance with what they think to be the lowest clique in the entire school. This broader point about bullying and cliques is muddled by dated stereotyping attempting to be comedy. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
High schoolers will have little tolerance for the simplified version of their social lives, and parents might object to younger children watching due to language and issues of sexuality. There are a few charming moments, though, especially as Cindy and Ronald become friends. Overall, though, this film has not aged well. Humor that may have been considered funny decades ago (like fat-shaming) comes across as mean-spirited now. There are no consequences for bullying or underage drinking. Parents who may have fond memories of this movie might be surprised to remember it isn't as good as they remembered.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.