He’s All That, directed by Mark Waters, is the gender-swapped remake of the 1999 film She’s All That. While the films share the same screenwriter, some of the same cast, and more or less the same narrative, the similarities end there.
The modernised remake stars Addison Rae as popular influencer Padgett in place of Freddie Prince Jr’s jock character Zack. Like its predecessor, He’s All That mirrors the Pygmalion narrative of transforming a loser into someone worthy of prom king/queen. He’s All That showed potential, with its gender switch and introduction of social media adding elements that She’s All That lacked. The film had the chance to usher in a new modern take on 90’s rom-coms that were relatable to generation Z. However, it lacked the heart of its 90’s inspiration. It seemed too preoccupied with product placement and Rae’s likeability to develop the narrative in a way that lends itself to sincerity.
Rae, the popular TikTok performer, currently has 84 million followers. Yet, while she has achieved social media success, the same cannot be said for cinema. While She’s All That manages to endear you to its ‘popular’ protagonist, the adaptation fails in this endeavour primarily due to the poor acting of Rae. Her acting is not bad for a cinematic debut; but, her awful line delivery and exaggerated facial emotions generate moments of constant grimace, preventing audience identification with the character. Therefore the moments of empathy that drove the narrative of She’s All That fell flat in its remake.
Another flaw in the film is its inability to convey the plausibility of the love story. While both films cast overtly attractive actors who would struggle to be deemed as “unattractive” in any normal society. Tanner Buchanan plays Cameron, the subject of the makeover, in this 2021 modern-day Pygmalion. We are asked to believe that this handsome, photography-loving, horse-loving teenager with a six-pack of abs is a “loser”. Most of the time, the pair’s chemistry is lacking, resembling two kids forced to collaborate on a school assignment rather than a relationship.
Nevertheless, the film does not rely too heavily on the original source material, which is admirable. The film retains iconic scenes such as the infamous ‘kiss me’ scene, but it is updated to fit the modern setting. And while many of the emotional moments of Rae’s character falls flat, the film partially makes up for it through moments of family conflict. Most notably, when Cameron’s sister Brin confronts her brother about how she feels he has lost his way since the death of their mother. This open discussion of loss was a truly affecting aspect of the film, adding dimension to Cameron’s character.
Overall, He’s All That had potential but failed to capture the same charm She’s All That held in a modernised context. While She’s All That captured the whole ‘be yourself’, disregard popularity message with ease and sincerity, He’s All That failed in their message surrounding social media. The film attempted to convey that social media isn’t real and that accepting yourself as you are, flaws and all, is crucial. However, while casting an infamous influencer who profits off portraying her perfect lifestyle, this message comes across as superficial – as does Kourtney Kardashian’s acting performance in the film.
Image Credit Netflix