Surprisingly sweet Netflix original ‘He’s All That’ isn’t as intolerable as it seems

Shot from Netflix film "He's All That"
Netflix/Courtesy

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Grade: 2.5/5.0

TikTok star Addison Rae is coming for her Oscar after making her acting debut with Netflix’s release of “He’s All That.” A remake of the ‘90s romantic comedy “She’s All That,” the 2021 film reverses the protagonists’ gender roles. With a main character named Padgett Sawyer, it’s easy to be doubtful of the film’s quality, but Rae as the lead actress surprisingly steals the spotlight with a charming performance. The Netflix original reveals the desperations of a modern-day female influencer to fit in while navigating online scrutiny, relationships and high school drama.

“He’s All That” follows the premise of the original — Padgett makes a bet with her friend Alden (Madison Pettis) that she can either turn a random guy at school into prom king, or become a “loser for life.” But for Padgett, the bet means more than the potential of becoming a loser.

At first glance, she’s a typical socialite with her expensive clothes, famous sponsors and egotistic rapper boyfriend Jordan Van Draanen (Peyton Meyer). All of this comes to a halt, however, when Padgett goes viral for having a breakdown after catching Draanen cheating on her. The internet immediately memes Padgett, branding her “bubble girl” after a zoomed-in still of snot dripping down her nose surfaces. 

After Padgett’s viral mishap, she loses everything, but Draanen only becomes more popular. Here, the film slyly points to the way internet culture is more tough on women than men. Though losing a boyfriend is a small loss to Padgett, she eventually starts to lose followers, as well as brand deals that affect her college savings. Rae plays the role well, most likely due to her personal understanding of the struggles that come with influencer fame.

One of the movie’s major plotlines is that Padgett pretends to live a lavish lifestyle online to continue impressing her followers and friends. In reality, she claims to be “poor” because she lives in a home that’s small compared to those of her friends, doesn’t own a car and supports herself and her mom with the money she makes from social media. This subplot is incredibly tone-deaf: While the audience can be sympathetic to the fact that Padgett is trying to fit in with her peers, her lifestyle is significantly more than comfortable compared to the average person.

Plot aside, Rae’s acting abilities truly thrive off of co-star Tanner Buchanan, who plays the moody love interest, Cameron Kweller. Cameron is the typical fixer-upper; he’s characterized as a ragamuffin with an interest in photography, though he dislikes social media culture. Rae makes him her project, and in typical rom-com fashion, they begin to actually like each other. In one particularly cutesy scene, Padgett is singing to Katy Perry’s “Teenage Dream,” and Cameron, smitten with Padgett, jumps on stage to participate with her. Besides surely helping Rae’s potential music career further down the line, the scene succeeds with its sentimentality.

After Cameron gets his hair cut by Padgett, reveals his six-pack and becomes conventionally attractive, he ultimately finds out about Padgett’s bet and feels betrayed by her. Padgett eventually wins prom queen alongside her ex Draanen and gives a clumsy, heartfelt speech about her true identity. The scene felt awkward and even a little meta, considering that Rae’s character is denouncing social media’s superificality and encouraging her peers to live in the moment and be true to themselves. Her reconciliation with Cameron, however, satisfies viewers as the happy ending that Padgett deserves.

There’s truly a lot to unpack with “He’s All That.” Taking its storyline from the original film, it packs plenty of entertainment, and Rae and Buchanan’s chemistry on screen can’t be denied. The acting is far from phenomenal — sometimes cringeworthy — but in its small, intimate moments, the film manages to make up for its faults. For what it is, the film plays its role well: a cheesy rom-com with awkwardly-placed hip references, sure to be enjoyed with snacks and friends.

Contact Kaitlin Clapinski at [email protected].