Director: Mark Waters
Cast: Addison Rae, Tanner Buchanan, Madison Pettis, Myra Molloy, Isabella
Crovetti, Annie Jacob, Peyton Meyer, Rachael Leigh Cook, Matthew Lillard
Genre: Romantic comedy
Duration: 91 minutes
Netflix release date: August 27, 2021
‘He’s All That’ is the new comedy released by Netflix, and yet another entry into the streaming platform’s long list of high school-set romcoms. The movie, directed by Mark Waters, is a gender-swapped remake of the 90s cult classic, ‘She’s All That’ (Robert Iscove, 1999), about a popular boy who takes a ‘plain Jane’ and turns her into the most popular and pretty girl in the school. ‘He’s All That’ reverses this: popular girl Padgett Sawyer (Addison Rae) makes a bet with a friend that she can turn the shabby high school underdog Cameron Kweller (Tanner Buchanan) into a popular and pretty boy. Comedy ensues and feelings spark between Padgett and Cameron.
‘He’s All That’ is largely predictable with an uncreative screenplay that seems to have picked up beats from every highschool rom-com in existence (including ‘She’s All That’), and upgrading it to a 2021 setting in upscale California. We can see from miles away how the film will conclude.
Playing the lead woman is TikTok star Addison Rae, who is making her foray into movies and music lately. There has been some controversy surrounding the starlet’s swift rise to fame, with critics on Twitter accusing her of being catapulted to fame (and movie roles) simply with dance challenges, all because of her white privilege and wealthy background. Meanwhile, most of the creators of these dance challenges are talented black TikTokers who continue to swim in obscurity. Many have been quick to deride Rae’s acting as Padgett in this new comedy. And while she tends to be awkward in some scenes and has much to improve, the newcomer’s performance has some charm to it. Rae makes Padgett amicable and sweet, although she can sometimes be an airhead due to her tendency to smile goofily in uncomfortable or downright embarrassing situations. This may come off as endearing to some viewers while intolerable to others. Padgett is a social media influencer with over 8 lakh followers on Instagram. Maintaining a perfect appearance and showcasing an ideal lifestyle are top priorities for Padgett, who is secretly from a poor family and has a single mom who works as a nurse. She has a people-pleasing nature, and a stick-on smile pasted eternally on her face that seems rightfully superficial, hiding more than it reveals. This is true for many influencers and celebrities who strive to showcase only their best, most beautiful sides. Rae is natural in this role until you realize that maybe she isn’t acting at all. Maybe she is just being herself since Rae, too, is an influencer.
Tanner Buchanan (as the ‘plain Joe’ Cameron) offers a more believable performance here, providing an anchoring to a sometimes unconvincing narrative. His moments with Rae are sweet and subdued. Another eye-turner is Isabella Crovetti (playing Cameron’s younger sister Brin), who is outstanding in a scene where she cries and talks of their mother’s death. And there’s the always dependable comic chops from Matthew Lillard (widely loved for playing Shaggy in the 2002 ‘Scooby Doo’ live-action).
Madison Pettis plays Padgett’s friend-turned-nemesis, Alden. The writing of Alden is, sadly, two-dimensional and lacking depth. She’s only there to deliver her lines and throw obstacles towards Padgett before prancing away. Additionally, complications are resolved easily and decisions are made too quickly. This can be seen when Padgett makes a plan to pick a random boy to give a makeover. She simply gets up from her seat, thinks for a few seconds and then straightforwardly announces her plan to her pals. This kind of directing renders the scenes amateur play-like and the script, clumsily penned.
For a Hollywood-level movie, ‘He’s All That’ sometimes seems low-budget as the camera quality looks like it was filmed on an iPhone. Maybe this was the purpose of the movie but it seems ugly at times. The editing is sometimes jarring and the lighting can be harsh, giving the movie a flat look.
The movie briefly looks at themes of public scrutiny, shallowness, and social media’s effect on young people’s behaviours. It is scary for the viewer to witness how much these things have a hold on Gen Z. But there is no deep critique or observation here. We are not even sure if the film condemns this phenomenon or embraces it. What we do get is a safe message of ‘being true to yourself and not hiding one’s blemishes’, which is vague to say the least.
‘He’s All That’ is, at best, a tolerable and predictable high school comedy and, at worst, a product placement-heavy vehicle to showcase a young influencer’s acting chops.
‘He’s All That’ is now streaming on Netflix. It currently ranks in Top Movies for Netflix India.
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