Say what you will about the hate-watch, but Netflix has it down to a science with some of their original programming. He’s All That drew more preemptive ire than usual for a variety of different reasons. It’s the latest in a string of remakes that arguably don’t need to exist. It stars Addison Rae, a Tiktok star who people seem to either love or hate, rather than someone with, you know, acting experience. It made headlines for shutting down Union Station in Los Angeles, then an active and very busy COVID-19 testing facility, so that they could film there. Really, take your pick. But something is freeing about going into a movie the lowest of expectations: if nothing else, you’re unlikely to be let down. Anything more than an absolute disaster comes across as a pleasant surprise. And He’s All That definitely benefits from everyone being prepared to hate it. Because it’s actually not a complete trainwreck. There are elements of it that are even enjoyable. It’s probably not in the same zip code as “good,” but it’s not worse than any other Netflix teen comedies that are constantly being churned out. In the case of He’s All That, being called just generic and average is kind of a compliment.
Addison Rae plays Padgett, a high school senior with hundreds of thousands of followers on social media (this film exists in a universe where all high schoolers are budding influencers). She even has a sponsorship with a fashion brand. Her contact there is played by Kourtney Kardashian, who has about two scenes and is never quite able to avoid the impression that she’s reading every single one of her lines from a cue card held just off-camera. Padgett documents her entire life, but it’s for a good cause: her mom (Rachael Leigh Cook, famously the star of She’s All That) is a nurse who works herself to the bone so that Padgett can be in a better school district, and all of the money Padgett earns is earmarked for her college fund.
But things go awry when she decides to surprise her boyfriend Jordan (played by Peyton Meyer, who Gen X audiences will likely recognize from his role as Lucas on Girl Meets World) on the set of his new music video, where he’s canoodling with another girl, a betrayal that is live-streamed to the world. Desperate to win back followers after becoming an online laughingstock, she decides to embark on a new makeover project, which her absolutely terrible friend Alden (Madison Pettis) parlays into the bet at the heart of He’s All That: Alden picks a loser, and Padgett has to turn him into a prom king.
It’s almost brave that He’s All That makes absolutely zero effort to update or improve the elements of She’s All That that made it so completely ridiculous. They could have grasped at straws to try to justify why the subject of the bet would be the mysterious, objectively very handsome Cameron (Cobra Kai’s Tanner Buchanan), who is a misanthropic heartthrob with hidden depths that literally any high schooler would have a crush on. But they don’t even make an attempt. This is the unfashionable dork who needs a makeover. You can either buy it or don’t, He’s All That doesn’t care. It almost makes you respect it.
And let’s give credit where it’s due; Buchanan is charming, full-stop. He’s written in a way that makes him feel like much less of a cardboard cutout than most male leads in teen comedies, someone who deeply cares about the people in his life but is entirely uninterested in the opinions of anyone else. It’s almost as if they knew that if He’s All That was going to have any chance of succeeding, it would be all on his shoulders, carrying Addison Rae across the finish line. In theory, it makes some kind of sense to cast a real-life TikTok star to play the fictional social media influencer. Sort of like, neo-realism. But when you watch her, completely devoid of screen presence and struggling through her emotional beats, you realize that the thing that would have made even more sense would have been to hire an actual actor. Luckily, the damage is limited. When you watch She’s All That, Rachael Leigh Cook is the character that grabs your attention, not Freddie Prinze Jr’s kind-hearted but dull jock, and it’s the same thing here: Buchanan is the clear star of the show.
Actually, that’s not quite true. It’s true for most of the film until Matthew Lillard turns up in the last fifteen minutes and steals the entire show as the long-suffering principal there to just hang a lampshade on every ridiculous contrivance of He’s All That. There’s almost a physical sensation of fresh air being pumped into the room while he’s on camera, just doing his thing, and it honestly makes it feel like a totally different movie. God bless Matthew Lillard: the man always understands the assignment.
So there you have it, folks. Despite almost everyone wanting this movie to fail, it nonetheless earns the faint praise of being nowhere near as bad as it could have been. It’s fun! And silly! It throws a little bit of nostalgia at the millennial crowd who dined out on She’s All That as middle schoolers, proves once again that Tanner Buchanan can usually be relied upon to elevate middling teen comedy material, and probably suggests that Addison Rae isn’t quite ready for her close-up. It’s not setting the world on fire, but it’s a perfectly serviceable teen comedy that honestly is exactly the sort of slight, low-stakes film that should be premiering on Netflix instead of in a movie theater.