Who doesn’t love a good makeover? It’s been a staple of romantic cinema from 1964’s “My Fair Lady” to 1995’s “Clueless”. The tale of how one’s outer appearance transforms to meet one’s inner beauty as we root for our scruffy underdogs. Which is exactly what this gender-swapped reboot of 1999’s “She’s All That” aims to be. Good, dumb cheesy fun with a slice of steamy teen drama. Deep down in our jaded heart of hearts, there’s a nostalgic spot for that. Hell sometimes, they rise above the stigma on the genre to be something truly poignant and groundbreaking. Looking at you 2017’s “Call Me By Your Name”.
Oh yes, all that we can take.
Unfortunately, Netflix’s latest shaggy-dog story of a down-on-his-luck hunk feels massively overshadowed by its female lead, Addison Rae, and not in a good way. Let’s break it down and find out why “He’s All That” isn’t very good at all.
The plot of the film follows Addison Rae’s Padgett Sawyer. A social media influencer known for her gorgeous looks, fashion tips and sweet-sixteen dream life. There’s just one problem…all of it is a lie. She lives a double life with her single mother, living in a small house trying to meet end’s meet. Therefore, she has to keep up this fake facade to support herself and her family. All that comes crashing down when her archetypal douche-bag boyfriend is caught cheating on her. The embarassing affair is all captured on her live-stream, tarnishing her image.
However, she finds a way to get back on top by creating the perfect Prom King from scratch. All she needs is an unpopular misanthrope with a heart of gold. The rest of it plays out exactly as you’d expect. They’re hesitant with each other at first but then they bond and grow closer. He begins to realize there’s more to her than just her online persona, she begins to fall for his inner beauty (and frankly barely hidden hunky good looks). There’s conflict, of course, when the truth comes out.
Let’s be honest, you don’t come here for the plot’s originality. You come for the cutesy moments and the heated melodrama when the story calls for it. The actual relationship between Padgett and Tanner Buchanan’s Cameron Kweller is really sweet. Seeing Padgett slowly coaxing Cameron out of his shell and Cameron showing her his world did tug on our heartstrings. The moments when its just the two of them are the best in the film. The problem is, it’s always external forces that come as the source of conflict. Which isn’t inherently bad but the way these issues arise feel so contrived and underdeveloped, they border on cartoonish.
Then, of course, there’s the giant elephant in the room we feel needs addressing. Throughout the entire film, we couldn’t quite shake the feeling that this was one giant advertisement for Addison. As much as the film tries to make her relatable, it never commits in trying to sell us on this idea. It never tries to explore the disconnect and detriments of how online celebrity culture both creates and destroys people. We weren’t expecting a bloody thesis on Hannah Arendt or anything but a little more than the cheap compromise offered by the film’s token moral lesson. Perhaps, that would have created a conflict of interest. Just saying.
As a dancer and singer, there is little doubt that TikTok star Addison Rae has talent. An actor, though? Well, let’s just say it’s on the same calibre one may find on the social media platform. There are times when she says her lines in an almost confused manner. As if she’s asking a question when she’s trying to banter. There’s also a severe lack of urgency in her performance when conflict arises. It’s her first official debut in a live-action film so maybe she’ll improve in time. For now, Rae should stick to doing covers on TikTok.
Her co-star Tanner Buchanan, thankfully, is the saving grace to the entire film. Buchanan, best known for his role as Robby in Netflix’s “Cobra Kai”, has far more experience. The man knows how to sell the angst-ridden, sullen misanthrope character. He’s also a very capable phsycial actor. Seriously, that school fight in the second season finale of “Cobra Kai” was some mini-John Wick madness right there! He does the best with the material given to him, trying to inject some grit and fun into the role. Unfortunately, it feels like he’s constantly being held back from giving it his all. We’re hoping Buchanan finds a way to break out of the high-schooler typecast. He’s got talent.
Then, there’s the writing. Oh how it hurts to hear some of these lines. There’s an awful line when Cameron and Padgett are arguing and he’s on the verge of finding out about her ulterior motives. So, she proceeds to say one of the most cringe-inducing lines we’ve heard in a long time. Even the writers from “The Kissing Booth” would be blushing at what they heard. When it’s not making actors say strange and awful things, it’s expository heavy to a frightening degree. We get it, Cameron is a misunderstood soul but you can’t have him be a horse-riding, photography art loving, badass fighting high-schooler from a broken family looking to explore the world. Holy crap, how many boxes were you people trying to tick off? Just pick one of those aspects and do them well.
Netflix’s “He’s All That” unfortunately doesn’t have much to show. When it’s not sandbagging talented actors, it’s too busy pandering to fans of TikTok star Addison Rae. If you are a fan, you’ll be tested to your limits. For those who aren’t, there’s little reason for you to stay. In light of better films and TV series based on high-school, we could not give “He’s All That” a pass. Those looking to for some actual good fun should give “Cobra Kai” a watch.
So what did you think of Addison Rae’s “He’s All That”? What’s your favourite teen drama guilty pleasure? Be sure to let us know in the comments!
Netflix's "He's All That" Review
Netflix's "He's All That" unfortunately doesn't have much to show. When it's not sandbagging talented actors, it's too busy pandering to fans of TikTok star Addison Rae. If you are a fan, you'll be tested to your limits. For those you aren't, there's little reason for you to stay.
- Netflix's "He's All That" Review