The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
There’s no denying that 2021 has been the year of remakes- Gossip Girl, Cruella, Cinderella, iCarly– and the one that everyone’s currently talking about – He’s All That, a remake of the 1999 classic She’s All That.
She’s All That centers around student-body president slash jock slash the top of his class slash most popular guy on campus Zack Siler, who gets dumped by his prom queen girlfriend for a reality show star. In an attempt to regain his friends’ respect, Zack bets that he can take and make any girl prom queen, and he and his friends place their bets on Laney Boggs.
Being a remake, He’s All That follows more or less the exact same storyline, the only difference being that this time, the one making the bet is a her, Instagram famous influencer Padgett Sawyer and the one being bet on is a him, Cameron Kweller. Even the movie’s tagline is “It’s his turn for a makeover”.
I’m in no way a movie critic, nor do I pretend to be. I watched the original well after it was released, when I was knee-deep in my Wattpad phase. I absolutely loved the “you started out as a bet but now I love you” storyline, and for that reason, She’s All That became one of my all-time favorites. Initially, I assumed that the reason that I didn’t enjoy the remake as much was because I’d outgrown the plot itself; yet looking back, there were other things that bothered me. *There are spoilers ahead. You’ve been warned*
While He’s All That is a remake, it has attempted to make the story its own, and it’s unfair to constantly measure it against the original, especially when the original currently rests more upon the nostalgia and memories it stirs up rather than its merit as a film itself. Two major details that we’re introduced to right off the bat is the fact that Padgett is an Instagram influencer who streams and posts her every waking minute, and this influencer is her defining personality trait. Another fact that we’re introduced to is the fact that though Padgett isn’t well off, she goes out of her way to pretend that she is, going as far as to lie to her friends. The fact that we’ve been given this information in the beginning seems to imply that it’s probably important.
While her constant live-streaming of everything is what leads to her becoming unpopular and eventually making the bet, and hence an important driver of the plot, the fact that she lies about how wealthy she has no real bearing on the plot. It’s probably supposed to emphasize the fact that Padgett is superficial and never really “herself”, yet the fact that this “lying about being rich” storyline is introduced once and then never again makes it unmemorable.
One of the major changes from the 90s to now is, undeniably, the advancement of technology and the fact that we spend a lot of our time on social media, yet this constant obsession that writers seem to have with Instagram and influencers, as well as a warped understanding of how our generation uses social media is painfully apparent. The influencer storyline and aggressive usage of social media is shoved down our throats. The writers seem to have written Padgett’s character with the intention of portraying her as superficial and fake online, yet deep and thoughtful offline, yet that never really comes across, and her personality is consistently the same throughout the film- she’s the same online and offline.
The other main character- Cameron Kweller- is portrayed as the no-nonsense, realist, brooding, deep, doesn’t care for social norms, too cool for school, only listens to real music, soft only for his sister – basically the social outcast with a beanie. Taking into consideration the Wattpad-esque nature of this plot, it’s almost funny how Cameron is considered unpopular. Usually (and trust me, I’ve read enough online teenage high school romance and fanfiction online and watched enough teen flicks to know this), the mysterious bad boy is fairly popular in his own right, which isn’t the case with this story.
One of the MAJOR gripes I had with Cameron’s characters (and this doesn’t even have anything to do with the overarching story itself) is the fact that he knew EVERY SINGLE WORD to Katy Perry’s Teenage Dream. Hear me out – it is made abundantly clear that he listens only to obscure music from decades ago, real music, and is full of disdain for pop music. Yet, in an attempt to help Padgett save herself from embarrassment when she freezes up singing karaoke, he gets up on the stage and sings along with her. Him singing in public is supposed to illustrate the fact that his relationship with Padgett has had an impact on him, making him do something he’d have never done otherwise. Yet him singing Teenage Dream perfectly word for word is just completely out of character.
My main issue with this movie was the fact that I was never at any point emotionally invested in the story or the characters or their lives. I never felt anything – no sympathy, no joy or sadness,- I wasn’t even annoyed by the characters. There was never any real chemistry between the leads, and the entire thing as a whole just seemed very forced. We’re supposed to be watching two teenagers fall in love with each other’s personalities, but none of the characters really have any depth or any perceivable personality in the first place. There was no subtlety in the movie. It was painfully apparent how the writers wanted us to feel, and what they wanted us to think, and this was evident through forced awkward dialogues and scenes.
For example, the prom scene features a dance-off between Padgett and her ex-best friend Alden. This is made clear through dialogic exchanges where they promise to face each other off. The original also features a dance scene, and in some way a dance-off as well, but it’s considerably less awkward and less out-of-place seeming, and actually far more memorable and iconic. There’s no aggressive advertising of the dance-off. Rather, it’s seamlessly woven into the plot.
He’s All That is a feeble attempt at an alternate retelling, in my opinion. While they clearly tried to make a statement about makeovers by switching the genders of the main characters, it still in the end, refused to stray from conventional beauty standards. The one thing She’s All That is remembered for is the classic coming-down-the-stairs scene, where Laney Boggs, out of her paint-stained overalls and now in a red party dress with her hair down and her glasses off, allows Zack to finally see her as beautiful. Laney is petite, cute, conventionally very attractive. Similarly, Cameron, under all that uncut hair and unshaven stubble is tall, broad, and has abs…obviously.
She’s All That had a solid star-studded cast, what with Rachael Leigh Cook, Freddie Prinze Jr., Mathew Lillard, Paul Walker, and Usher. He’s All That has seen a cast filled with equally recognizable names- TikTok star Addison Rae, Tanner Buchanan of Cobra Kai fame, Peyton Meyer and Madison Pettis, Disney Channel favorites as well as two members from the original movie- Mathew Lillard and Rachael Leigh Cook.
The people of the Internet have made it very clear as to how they feel about the movie, and He’s All That reached No. 1 on Netflix almost instantaneously from constant hate-watching. The movie’s been rated a sad 4.1/10 by IMDb; it’s awkward, and its attempts at humor fall flat. However, most of the hatred has been directed at Addison Rae, with several watchers finding her unworthy of the role. It’s Addison’s first-ever film, and her lack of experience is visible, yet she’s not a terrible actress, and the kind of criticism she’s receiving is unwarranted, with viewers picking apart her every single word.
He’s All That is just another movie that falls under the category of painfully average rom-com with a lot of fluff and no real substance, the kind of quality that we’ve come to expect from Netflix’s teen flicks. It’s a testament to the fact that some movies are just better off not being remade.