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‘He’s All That’ is not all that – not even a little bit of that

Peyton Meyer as Jordan Van Draanen, Madison Pettis as Alden and Tanner Buchanan as Cameron Kweller in “He’s All That” on Netflix.  (Kevin Estrada/Netflix)
Peyton Meyer as Jordan Van Draanen, Madison Pettis as Alden and Tanner Buchanan as Cameron Kweller in “He’s All That” on Netflix. (Kevin Estrada/Netflix)
By Sonia Rao Washington Post

The latest edition of “did we really need this?” arrives on Netflix in the form of a TikTok star’s feature film debut: Addison Rae stars in “He’s All That,” a gender-swapped reimagining of “She’s All That,” the 1999 romantic comedy starring Freddie Prinze Jr. and Rachael Leigh Cook as its leads.

Streaming Friday, the movie casts Rae in the Prinze role but updates the character for her generation. She plays Padgett Sawyer, a high school-age beauty influencer who, after discovering that her boyfriend cheated on her, has a meltdown on Instagram Live.

As a way to rebuild her self-confidence, the makeover expert accepts a classmate’s challenge to befriend an unsuspecting outcast, Cameron Kweller (Tanner Buchanan), and transform him into prom king material. Naturally, she falls for him.

This premise was already tired by the time “She’s All That” came around – the movie was loosely based on “My Fair Lady,” after all, itself a take on “Pygmalion” – but teen comedies don’t always need to avoid tropes to succeed.

What matters most are the stars’ charisma and chemistry, as “He’s All That” director Mark Waters seems well aware, having helmed modern classics “Freaky Friday” and “Mean Girls.” Unfortunately, the new film falters on both.

Many have wondered how Rae accumulated 82.8 million followers on TikTok and 38.8 million on Instagram. She’s pretty, but her dancing is nothing special; it sparked controversy when she and Jimmy Fallon failed to credit the creators of viral TikTok choreography she halfheartedly performed on “The Tonight Show.”

The New York Times indicated this year that her popularity has more to do with her tenure on TikTok, support from other influencers and a foray into the beauty industry. Absent those factors, Rae doesn’t have too much to offer viewers.

She’s an earnest actress but lacks the vocal inflection and range of facial expressions required to give depth to Padgett. The character’s emotional arc involves her attempt to stop hiding behind her influencer status, whether in terms of the makeup she wears or her preoccupation with social standing.

But Rae never convincingly drops the facade herself, a forced smile plastered onto her face until the credits roll. So what hope was there for electric chemistry with Buchanan, whose character’s most notable trait is a wig as upsetting as his bleak outlook on the world?

While a social outcast wouldn’t necessarily share the goofy sweetness of a character like “To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before’s” Peter Kavinsky, still the reigning heartthrob of teen rom-coms, Cameron’s sardonic nature could have led him to transform into a charmingly rebellious teenager akin to, say, Patrick Verona from “10 Things I Hate About You.”

Instead, we are meant to find Cameron interesting simply because he shoots photographs on film and to consider his joining Padgett in an uncomfortable karaoke rendition of “Teenage Dream” as compelling a show of young love as belting “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You” while skipping across a set of steps.

Buchanan tries his best with the material – written by R. Lee Fleming Jr., who also penned the original film – as do an array of supporting acts (Madison Pettis and Myra Molloy as Padgett’s friends and Peyton Meyer as her ex).

But some things just can’t be saved, not even by the nostalgic returns of “She’s All That” stars Cook and Matthew Lillard, who appear in small, unrelated roles. In the end, “He’s All That” is not all that – not even a little bit of that.

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