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Review: 'He's All That' isn't even a bag of chips

Netflix tried to make a Disney Channel Original Movie without any of the spirit


"He's All That," a genderbent remake of the 90's movie "She's All That," came out on Netflix in August. Illustration originally published Thursday, Sept. 23, 2021. 

At the tail end of August, Netflix dropped "He’s All That," a gender-bent remake of "She’s All That," a popular '90s movie about going from not-to-hot ... with only hot people.

The new film stars TikTok influencer Addison Rae as Padgett Sawyer and Tanner Buchanan as Cameron Kweller. Padgett, a social media influencer who is dethroned after a live broadcast of her throwing pastries at her cheating boyfriend goes viral, gambles her last shred of dignity in a half-baked attempt to turn indie-loser Cameron into the prom king.

The premise is simple and beyond formulaic, which is to be expected. 

Girl meets boy. Girl makes a bet with friends to turn said "frog" into a prince, and … gasp! They fall in love! Only for the boy to find out about the bet and leave heartbroken, because a rom-com is not a rom-com without some last-minute conflict. 

We’ve seen this trope a billion times before, from the likes of "How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days" to the original film, "She’s All That."

"He’s All That" feels a lot like a textbook Disney Channel Original Movie, just with more innuendo and curse words. From the set to direction to casting choices (Peyton Meyer, Madison Pettis and Isabella Crovetti are aged-out Disney and Nick Jr. actors), it's reminiscent of the movies I grew up with. 

But the film falls just short of actually satisfying any sense of nostalgia, like an uncanny valley of wooden acting and poor plot lines.

The issue is, while Disney movies are universally beloved due to the unsaid agreement between audiences to not be taken seriously, "He’s All That" attempts to masquerade as a "real" movie. 

"He’s All That" can’t even begin to compare in caliber to similar movies produced by Netflix, including "The Kissing Booth" (despite being a generally horrible movie, the direction and overall quality still outpace "He’s All That") and "To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before."

Even though Rae played an influencer, her casting was a controversial choice as many still felt uncomfortable with the idea that someone with a social media background like Rae could star in a film picked up by streaming giant Netflix. 

But Alexander Halavais, associate professor in the School of Social and Behavioral Sciences who studies social change, said he thinks criticism of the trend is overblown.

“Do people discount Lil Nas X or Justin Bieber, or someone like that because they got their start on social media?” Halavais said. “(Switching platforms) is just as hard as making it from being a vlogger, or a TikToker into film. The question is, do you have the chops to make this transition or not?”

Rae isn’t terrible, in the sense that any Disney starlet in this day and age isn’t terrible. 

Is she the best actress of her generation? Absolutely not. Her dialogue seems stilted, and at times, her facial expressions vacillate between muted and ones of weird concentration.

Would her acting skill merit any sort of major role on its own? No, but "in some cases, they’re just putting this person in this film because they already have a fanbase that will see them in anything,” Halavais said.

And parts of the movie do push Rae's "irl" bankability at the expense of Padgett's — she sings, dances (“She might as well get a residency in Vegas,” a side character crows) and includes a cameo by Kourtney Kardashian, with whom she shares a highly publicized friendship.

Make no mistake, Rae is the star. Buchanan may be billed as a co-star, but his screen time — and performance — are more indicative of a secondary role than anything else. His performance is fine, nothing to write home about, but his dialogue is so poorly written that not even the greatest actor could save that mess. In the scenes he shares with Rae, the chemistry isn’t particularly … there. 

In general, Buchanan’s character, Cameron, has some of the worst writing. He unironically says things such as, "I’m a fountain of truth in a world of bulls---," something I initially hoped would be a character flaw he would overcome. 

But alas, his annoyingly pretentious tendencies aren’t really something regarded as bad or changeable. In fact, Padgett did the bulk of the changing.

Our villainous duo of Jordan Van Draanen and Alden (played by Meyer and Pettis, respectively) are perhaps some of the stupidest rom-com bad guys to grace any sort of screen. From Jordan’s ridiculous propensity for shirtlessness to his all-around creepy vibes, I’m left questioning why he’s such a heartthrob.

In a bright spot, Matthew Lillard and Rachael Leigh Cook, who both starred in the main cast of "She's All That," appear in this movie, albeit in completely unrelated roles. 

Cook has a pretty substantial supporting role as Padgett's hardworking mother, but she does just OK in it. Lillard plays the principal, voicing the character until his physical appearance at the end of the film, and despite his relatively minor part, is one of the best aspects of the movie.

The film has very few redeeming moments and is overloaded with ridiculous scenarios (including a weird dance-off that went on for way too long). I found it very difficult to complete it in one sitting.

Movies like this aren’t meant to be torn apart, but enjoyed without thinking too much about the finer details. It’s just a shame that, for what it is, it doesn’t even achieve that.

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