He's All That (United States, 2021)

August 27, 2021
A movie review by James Berardinelli
He's All That Poster

1999’s She’s All That was a fine, forgettable slice of mediocrity. In my naivete, I assumed the film’s bland anonymity was the reason it was accorded a gender-swapped remake. After all, while there’s danger in remaking a good movie, when the bar is set as low as it is for She’s All That, there’s nowhere to go but “up,” right?


I’m sure those within the target demographic for He’s All That will enjoy the movie for what it is – a day-glo, completely forgettable rom-com that demands minimal attention. It rewards those with the endurance to make it through the 90-minute brain-dead experience with the expected sappy ending. Even if you haven’t seen She’s All That (or the original source material for the story, George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion), you’ll know not only how things wrap up, but pretty much every beat along the way. The only surprising elements are how uncinematic the whole thing looks and how out of her depth the lead actress (social media sensation Addison Rae) is when it comes to developing a character.

The story of He’s All That tracks that of its predecessor, albeit updated to reflect the new decade. High school senior Pagett Sawyer (Rae) is the Queen Bee whose in-person popularity is secondary to her on-line presence, where she has so many followers that she has attracted a cosmetics sponsor. Then the unthinkable happens: Pagett catches her boyfriend, Jordan (Peyton Meyer), in flagrante. Her tearful reaction, which includes an unflattering shot of a snot bubble escaping from her left nostril, is captured by her camera-wielding friend, Alden (Madison Pettis), for the whole world to watch. Pagett sees her carefully-crafted social media empire crumble. Desperate to recapture some of her mojo, she bets Alden that she can transform the biggest loser in school into the Prom King. The selection is the misanthropic Cameron Kweller (Tanner Buchanan), who is initially resistant to Pagett’s overtures, but eventually consents to being made-over. Of course, after Pagett has finished her job, the ugly duckling has become a swan. The mismatched couple discovers they have feelings for one another but, before happily-ever-after can arrive, the bitchy Alden reveals the truth and Cameron decides that he never wants to see Pagett again.

Perhaps the most perplexing thing about He’s All That relates to how director Mark Waters became involved in the project. Although there are inklings of Waters’ cynical humor in some of the on-line scenes (check the comments on the left – this may require some pausing, but it’s on Netflix so that’s not a problem), this is a 180-degree shift from the likes of Mean Girls. And what does it say about the screenplay (credited to R. Lee Fleming Jr., who also wrote She’s All That) that the character of Cameron is more interesting prior to his make-over? Pagett, on the other hand, is bland and detestable before and after. We’re supposed to believe she’s a “good person” rather than a loathsome parasite because her mother (played by She’s All That’s female lead, Rachel Leigh Cook) says so.

In a statement I never thought I’d make in a lifetime of reviewing, the acting standout (a term I use advisedly in this case) is Matthew Lillard, whose role as the school principal is amusing. Like Cook and a certain song, he represents a nod to She’s All That. Most of the young cast varies from barely adequate to inoffensive, with the best of the bunch being Tanner Buchanan (who has a resume in both TV and movies) and Isabella Crovetti, the actress who plays his perky sister, Brin. As for the star, TikTok luminary and friend-of-the-Kardashians Addison Rae, the phrase “don’t quit your day job” applies. She’s unconvincing and exhibits no chemistry whatsoever with any of her castmates, including Buchanan.

Perhaps because Waters is attempting to replicate the artificiality of a social media environment, He’s All That doesn’t look or feel like a motion picture. It’s too bright, too static, and too kitschy. Everything about it is tacky. Intentional or not, it devalues a production of already questionable integrity.

The obvious rebuttal to this review is that He’s All That isn’t intended for a fifty-something male (ignoring the fact that it was made by two fifty-something men – Waters is 57 and Fleming is 51). That may be true but good movies transcend demographics and that’s something He’s All That proves incapable of doing. Undemanding movie-goers on the lookout for a movie featuring pretty people in a vapid rom-com that might find this movie to their liking. For everyone else, this is decidedly not “all that.”

He's All That (United States, 2021)

Run Time: 1:28
U.S. Release Date: 2021-08-27
MPAA Rating: "PG-13" (Profanity)
Genre: Romance/Comedy
Subtitles: none
Theatrical Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1