With YouTubers like Flula Borg, Lily Singh, and Anna Akana able to successfully parlay internet stardom into a career in Hollywood, it was only a matter of time before TikTokers began following suit and branching out towards acting. The latest product of the influencer-to-actor pipeline is Addison Rae, who stars in Netflix’s gender-swapped reimagining of the 1999 rom-com classic She’s All That, which originally starred Rachel Leigh Cook and Freddie Prinze Jr.. While the remake moves vaguely in the direction of some interesting ideas, what you see is ultimately what you get with He’s All That, a b-list Netflix romantic comedy that tries in vain to sell Rae as an actress and banks on its audiences’ affection for the original.
He’s All That stars Addison Rae as Padgett “Padge” Sawyer, a high school student/influencer who touts all sorts of beauty secrets and makeover hacks to her legions of followers. When she’s humiliated by ex-boyfriend Jordan (Peyton Meyer) Padgett forms a plan/bet with her friend Alden (Madison Pettis of Disney Channel’s Cory in the House) to regain her popularity: makeover a boy that seems like a lost cause (Cobra Kai‘s Tanner Buchanan) and get him popular enough to win prom king.
From the jump, He’s All That sets itself apart as a more tech-savvy retelling of the original: Padge is an Instagram influencer who live-streams nearly every aspect of her life, from getting ready in the morning to the ill-fated run-in with her boyfriend Peyton, where she’s accidentally captured on camera finding out in real time that he’s cheating on her. To the film’s credit, adding the ‘influencer’ angle is a pretty understandable update, if an obvious one: the ‘it’s not what’s on the outside, but what’s on the inside that counts’ thesis of both films fits well with a protagonist who is desperate to keep up appearances online for her followers.
The film further investigates this idea by adding the other major twist: Padge isn’t wealthy at all, and the glamorous, bubbly persona she puts on for her followers is a façade. In reality, her mom is a single mother and a nurse, struggling to make rent, and Padge puts her sponsorship money towards paying bills and a college fund. It’s a remarkably thoughtful plot thread and a development that certainly goes a long way in endearing us to Padgett, as the stakes for her to succeed are no longer just about popularity: if she doesn’t successfully make the next prom king, her sponsorships (and thus livelihood) are in serious jeopardy.
That’s about where any attempt at nuance, sincerity, and thoughtfulness ends, though, as after the first fifteen minutes, He’s All That nosedives straight into a painfully clunky, poorly acted, and utterly uninspired rehash of a much more well-loved, well-written film. Credit where credit is due: Addison Rae is by no means the worst part of He’s All That. In fact, she’s one of the stronger aspects: though her performance comes straight out of the Netflix Kissing Booth school of romcom acting, she more than holds her own with the rest of the cast. Admittedly, it’s not a high bar to clear, but there’s a genuine, infectious charm to Padgett that makes her a pleasant enough lead, even if her individual line reads leave much to be desired.
Opposite Rae’s perky influencer is social outcast/aspiring photographer/elitist hipster Cameron (Buchanan), the unsuspecting victim of Padgett’s makeover. Where Padgett is surprisingly endearing, Buchanan’s performance as Cameron is lacking in any kind of warmth or charm, making him difficult to like or even root for as a romantic lead. Granted, he’s written to be standoffish, but the script often leans too far into just how antisocial he is, and more often than not his jokes come off as flat out mean and not witty or sarcastic.
He also has little to no chemistry with Rae, which doesn’t help the clunky relationship progression between Cameron and Padge as the film rushes to include all the social media and makeover hijinks it can while still trying to shoehorn in their blossoming romance. What results is a dynamic that feels forced, rushed, and underbaked – He’s All That is more interested in giving audiences goofy montages of playing dress-up instead of taking the time to dive into why these two polar opposites make any sort of real romantic connection.
The supporting cast does help pick up the slack where the leads fizzle out: He’s All That features original She’s All That cast members Rachael Leigh Cook and Matthew Lilard as Padge’s mom and the school principal respectively, and the duo is a breath of fresh air whenever they pop up. The other dynamic double-act are Madison Pettis and Myra Molloy as Padgett’s best friends – one of whom goes on to stab Padge in the back, and the other who gets a sweet lesbian subplot with Cameron’s best friend.
While there are a few small saving grace moments from the supporting players, though, it’s nowhere near enough to redeem He’s All That from being an unabashed, uninspired rehash of a far better film. From the shaky camerawork to the instantly dated social media jokes to the painfully unfunny attempts at slapstick, He’s All That, is an across the board misfire that not even a makeover from Padgett could save.
He’s All That is currently available to stream on Netflix.
Photo: Kevin Estrada/Netflix