Remakes tend to be divisive subjects, but I often appreciate that remakes can invite a whole new generation to fall in love with a beloved story all over again. In that sense, Netflix’s He’s All That does exactly what it intends to do. It is admittedly a remake of the 1999 flick She’s All That starring Rachel Leigh Cook and Freddie Prinze Jr. However, it updates a classic teenage romcom for the modern era. Whether one thinks it does so successfully may well depend on whether they are old enough to have watched the original when it was first released.
What’s It About?
In He’s All That, teen social media influencer Padgett’s humiliating on-camera breakup goes viral, leading her to make a risky bet to save her reputation: She swears she can turn scruffy antisocial Cameron into prom king material. But things get complicated when she finds herself falling for him IRL.
So (perhaps understandably), there’s not a lot new here from the original. Popular kid makes a bet to turn a social outcast into the beau of the ball. Along the way, they fall in love. It seems like typical teenage romcom fare. If moving slightly past the era of “girls with glasses are nerds but become hotties once they take them off.” (It feels like that was once an entire genre of movie. Am I mistaken about that?)
However, to its credit, in reimagining the story for the modern era, He’s All That may add a certain layer of complexity to the basic morality tale of its predecessor. In the original, it is ultimately suggested – if not outright stated – that both the “popular kid” and the “nerd” were wearing masks and playing roles they had been cast to play in the social hierarchy of high school. He’s All That takes it a step further. It highlights the way social media compounds this pressure. Teenagers still must live up to others’ expectations of unreasonably perfect personas. Only now it isn’t just the cliques at school that must be appeased but thousands – or more! – of people comprising a nameless, faceless, ultimately extremely fickle public.
I am blessed to say I did not grow up under the increased pressure of this social media era. However, the idea that now kids are expected to not only put on facades for their (IRL) peers but for the online community is one I think will sadly resonate all too well with younger viewers.
Should I Watch It?
I’ll be honest and say I have aged out of the target demographic for this flick. There are things about it that felt a little over the top to me. At times, it felt like the writers crammed every idea they had into one film. (There is both an annual dance-off – at the prom because where else would it be? – and a horseback romantic climax in a very short span of time.)
But I tried to put that aside to view it from the perspective of its target audience. Are there still moments where it’s a bit silly and a bit over the top? Sure. But I think there’s probably just enough going on under the hood to resonate. The cast is endearing, and the chemistry between Padgett (Addison Rae) and Cameron (Tanner Buchanan) is sufficient to sell the idea that these opposites would attract.
To its credit, several supporting characters have moments to shine, as well. Cameron’s sister Brin (Isabella Crovetti) is never quite given the material she needs to embrace the Puck-like character I think she had the potential to be. However, she has at least one stand-out moment of emotional resonance. Quinn (Myra Molloy) has a rare opportunity to subtly demonstrate the strength it takes to be kind. Particularly at that age, when pressure from one’s friends and classmates makes it easier to be otherwise. And Nisha (Annie Jacob) is the friend we all wish we could have and be. (Also, if you’re old enough that your first memory of “high school teacher” Matthew Lillard was as a high school student, don’t forget to take some ibuprofen for your back pain. You’ll thank me later.)
While it seems odd for me to ask for more of a movie that I already suggested may at times have attempted too much, if there’s one thing I wish I could have gotten more of in He’s All That, it would have been to see more of the relationship between Nisha and Quinn. There’s just enough there to leave viewers wanting more. Dare we hope for a sequel?
Click below to see the He’s All That trailer: