He’s All That premieres Friday, Aug. 27 on Netflix.
He’s All That, a reworked and gender-flipped reboot of 1999’s teen rom-com She’s All That, is a deftly charming and capable update that takes the original premise, revolving around a glow-up “makeover” bet, and slides it effortlessly into 2021.
Directed by Freaky Friday and Mean Girls’ Mark Waters, He’s All That isn’t laugh-out-loud funny per se, but it does sweetly pull off the magic trick of presenting us with a handful of somewhat insufferable characters at the start and then slowly chipping away at them until they’re vulnerable and engaging. As Tanner Buchanan’s anti-everything grouch, Cameron Kweller, states at one point, high school is filled with scared people pretending to be something they’re not. He’s All That cradles this notion and uses it as a storyline strength for its two leads as they both discover what’s really underneath all that emotional armor.
TikTok star Addison Rae strikes gold with her first major role, parlaying her social media fame into a character who, similarly, lives her life online in an attempt to craft and cultivate a persona that helps her fit in at a rich and privileged school. Rae is able to give us a character, Padgett, who’s shallow, but has also worked very hard to become shallow, in an odd way. She’s a paid makeover influencer with an enormous following, but it’s all a means to an understandable end. Meanwhile, Buchanan nicely channels some of his angry outsider vibe from Cobra Kai to give us Cameron, who’s off-putting to the point where you can understand why he’s ostracized.
One of the lingering jokes/tropes from She’s All That, which also permeates a lot of other rom-coms, is the idea that an attractive person, like Rachael Leigh Cook’s Laney, somehow isn’t beautiful until she takes off her glasses and puts on makeup and formal wear. That’s ridiculous, obviously. He’s All That still has a bit of this as background noise, though it gives us more of a reason why Cameron makes for a perfect “I can make him Prom King” bet. No one thinks Cameron is unattractive; he’s just an unbearable malcontent. He’s a growling culture snob who would be an absolute pain in the ass to hold a conversation with. In that regard, He’s All That’s biggest triumph may be making him actually enjoyable by the end rather than redeeming the so-called superficial Instagram girl.
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Rae and Buchanan work very well together, as he begins to soften and smile and she — well, see, she’s always been a good person. Mostly. There’s an element of Padgett’s online personality that requires a bubbly and ever-positive demeanor, but that’s also Padgett’s factory setting. She’s able to connect with Cameron, to his surprise, because she’s not the person most people think she is. The romance here comes easily and naturally, and the film smartly leans heavily on the winning charisma of these two. It’s a reboot that has a few nudging nods to the original but also stands on its own as just an adorable and appealing story.
Original She’s All That stars Cook and Matthew Lillard also appear in supporting roles, but not as their O.G. characters, as this isn’t a legacy sequel. After all, Cook plays Padgett’s mother, and there’s no way a grown-up version of Laney would let Padgett coat herself with the false front she uses for her high school life. Here, simply playing Padgett’s hard-working nurse mom, Cook can be a supportive wisdom-dispenser without the baggage of being Laney. Lillard’s earnestly befuddled principal, meanwhile, makes for a silly third act scene stealer.
He’s All That Gallery