Netflix UK film review: He’s All That
Jo Bromilow | On 30, Aug 2021
Director: Mark Waters
Cast: Addison Rae, Tanner Buchanan, Madison Pettis
Where to watch He’s All That online in the UK: Netflix UK
A few months before the new millennium approached, during the golden age of Hollywood desperately trying to get kids to care about classic literature by making teen films out of it, She’s All That landed in cinemas. A platform heel-wearing, cell-phone-sporting twist on Pygmalion and My Fair Lady, it starred Freddie Prince Jr as Zach, desperate to regain his status as king of high school after being dumped by his girlfriend by agreeing to a bet with his best friend (Paul Walker) to turn the school’s least glamorous girl (Rachel Leigh Cook) into prom queen. A makeover, a double-cross and an epic dance-off later, it was, of course, a happily-ever-after for the ages.
Over 20 years on, we’re back at another sun-soaked high school for a fresh new twist on the classic tale, with a gender-flipped premise. Padgett (Addison Rae), an influencer and makeover queen, risks losing her status, her followers and her sponcon deals when her budding musician boyfriend (Peyton Meyer, surely one raised eyebrow away from becoming Conner4Real) cheats on her. To get back on top and secure the sponsorship cash that’ll take her to college, she bets her best frenemy (Madison Pettis) that she can replace her ex as the prom king by making over a brand new contender.
That contender is Cameron (Tanner Buchanan), a snarky artiste in the Jughead Jones mould, complete with beanie hat and sarcastic younger sister (Isabella Crovetti). He eye-rolls while Padgett live-streams and prefers sniping with his best friend (Annie Jacob) to striving for the college future Padgett’s tumbling follower count is threatening. But will he find something to “like” in Padgett’s world, or will the bet blow their chances?
Whether you have or haven’t seen the original (or either of its inspirations), you can see the plot points coming a mile off and the remake plays it safe by following the story arc beat for beat – albeit with a smattering more LGBTQ+ representation and some considerably more glamorous parties. But, like the recent Netflix teen comedies that have hooked fans with a well-known plot and ridden high on the star power of its cast, the film is saved by the likeability of its leads.
Naff trailer and horrible tagline aside, Netflix’s marketing department put a foot right in casting Addison Rae, a bona fide influencer with 39 million followers (and counting) who, as well as viewers, brings bags of charm to the role of Padgett. She’s expressive, engaging and believable, just like a true influencer should be, and it doesn’t hurt that she has palpable chemistry with Tanner Buchanan from the off. Matching her in the charm stakes and thinly disguised LA teen good looks (that beanie and plaid shirt fool no-one), Buchanan does sterling work alongside her to sell the deeper (if typically ridiculous – there’s a private plane involved) conflicts behind the stereotypical exteriors of their characters. Indeed, all the cast commit with energy palpable enough to make the neat 90 minutes fly by, taking a tour of teen movie tropes from Bring It On to Pretty In Pink to freshen the playbook.
Both leads are ably supported by a great young cast as well as the security of a few familiar faces from the original (and a well-placed celebrity cameo). It’s also well-geared towards the Gen Z viewership Rae will bring in; turn how many times they say TikTok or Instagram into a drinking game and you’re on the floor faster than the loser in the amazing(ly ridiculous) fight scene, but the dance-off is likely already lighting up the FYP (Google it) of its intended audience and the track list is full of millennial pop hits, TikTok-trending songs and a fondue-dipped remix of Sixpence None The Richer to round it all off.
It’s a sweet, neat little package and this writer is prepared to sacrifice their credibility on the altar of cinema to say that they enjoyed it. Sometimes, you just need to see a guy ride up on a horse (yes, really) to get the girl, Shaggy from Scooby Doo dad-dance in a blue suit and not get booed off stage by judgemental tweens, and a California brunette smile at the camera for so long she makes Chrishell from Selling Sunset look positively moody. More sugary than candy floss and just as fluffy, put the terrible trailer in the back of your mind and surrender to the syrup. As Padgett herself would surely endorse, sometimes you shouldn’t judge a film by its cover image.
He’s All That is available on Netflix UK, as part of an £9.99 monthly subscription.