‘He’s All That’ review: gender-swapped remake desperately needs a do-over

It's not all that! It's terrible!

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    This gender-swapped remake of She’s All That, a decent but not exactly top-tier ’90s teen movie, is less sexist than the 1999 original. This time around, we see a gawky guy made over into a high school hottie, not a geeky girl. But in 2021, the basic conceit that a teenager’s life can become more fulfilling if they’re given a glow-up still feels trite and trivial, and He’s All That lacks the knowing humour to carry it off.

    Casting TikTok star Addison Rae as Padgett Sawyer, an LA teenager whose massive social media following has made her an influencer, is both gimmicky and smart. Screenwriter R. Lee Fleming Jr., who also wrote She’s All That, adds another interesting touch by making Padgett a girl who isn’t quite what she seems. When her friends Alden (Madison Pettis) and Quinn (Myra Molloy) pick her up for school each morning, Padgett waits outside a fancy apartment block that fits her glossy rich girl image, not the more modest home she actually lives in with mum Anna (original She’s All That star Rachael Leigh Cook).

    Sadly, despite being stuffed with contemporary references to social media platforms, the rest of this remake is more rote. When Padgett haemorrhages followers after an embarrassing incident is captured via live stream, she bets Alden she can reverse her fortunes by transforming school misfit Cameron (Cobra Kai‘s Tanner Buchanan) into prom king. With crushing inevitably, she begins to develop feelings for Cameron, who is naturally less prickly than he initially seems, and learns a lot about herself in the process.

    He's All That
    Tanner Buchanan plays the titular “he” undergoing a life-changing makeover. CREDIT: Netflix

    Director Mark Waters has previously made teen movies great (Mean Girls) and good (Freaky Friday) but he struggles to inject He’s All That with any discernible spark. The performances are two-dimensional across the board, though in fairness the cast aren’t helped by a script that feels the need to explain the word “misanthrope” right after it’s (painfully) dropped into conversation. Keeping to a brisk 90-minute runtime, Waters moves through the predictable plot shifts with perfunctory efficiency and the odd sloppy moment. After Cameron dives into a swimming pool to rescue his beloved camera, he miraculously manages to dry off in time for the next frame, set barely a minute later.

    The overall tone is so listless that even a relatively witty idea, like having Kourtney Kardashian cameo as a social media-obsessed mogul, falls flat. Inevitably, the film climaxes with a prom scene featuring the most famous song from the original, Sixpence None the Richer’s ‘Kiss Me’. By this point, any residual affection from She’s All That has well and truly dissipated.

    Details

    • Director: Mark Waters
    • Starring: Addison Rae, Tanner Buchanan, Rachel Leigh Cook
    • Release date: August 27 (Netflix)
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