The plot has been around since Shakespeare sold out to Netflix. Guy courts woman, or vice versa, based on a dare, a bet or some other “arrangement.”
It’s a “Taming of the Shrew” variation, whether it’s “Cruel Intentions” or “Ten Things I Hate About You,” Kate Hudson chasing Matthew McConaughey, Matthew McConaughey chasing Kate Hudson, or hunky jock Freddie Prinze Jr. pursuing wallflower Rachel Leigh Cook, as a bet, in “She’s All That.”
That’s the movie Netflix gender-flipped and remade as “He’s All That.” It’s a not-quite-note-for-note remake, with a few fond nods to the original film — Rachel Leigh Cook plays a mother, this time, and Matthew Lillard graduated from popular guy’s best friend roles a while back. He’s a dorky high school principal here.
And if you remember the original with any fondness at all, recycling that pop classic “Kiss Me,” used in the “She’s All That” soundtrack and again here, may give you the warm fuzzies. Enjoy them while they last, because they don’t.
Padgett (newcomer Addison Rae) is a popular teen “makeover/influencer,” the well-paid and perfectly-put-together queen bee of Cali High, vlogging and live-streaming her way to being able to afford the college of her choice.
Because unlike her prettiest girls posse (Madison Pettis, Myra Molloy) and pretty much everybody else at the school, she’s not Child of Hollywood rich.
That’s become the studio style of Netflix teen movies. Not all of them have the gloss and glitz of absurd affluence. But most of them do.
Padgett dates hunky pop idol classmate Jordan (Peyton Meyer) because of course she does. She needs his Instagram followers, and he needed hers, and her gift of a makeover. But as is the way of social media romantic comedies, she catches him cheating and melts down while live-streaming.
She’s caught in a spitting fury, chewing him out in his trailer on the set of his latest music video. And a little bit of teary mucus that slips out her nose kills her online image. She goes viral as “Bubble Girl” (snot bubble), and her main beauty products sponsor (Kourtney Kardashian) drops her like Johnny Depp.
Losing followers is one thing. Losing her prom date, and the sponsor she was depending on for college, matters more. She’s got to rebound, and quick. Maybe she can pick a new guy, give him a makeover, and get back everything she’s lost by prom night.
Sidekick Alden (Pettis) suggests making it a bet, with Alden selecting the “loser” who will be Padgett’s “Makeover: Impossible.”
Enter scruffy, outspoken outcast Cameron (Tanner Buchanan of “Kobra Kai”), the flannel-and-stocking-cap kid Jordan and his entourage bully, the anti-social photographer with only his gay BFF (Annie Jacob) and sassy younger sister (Isabella Crovetti) to hang with.
He shovels horse excrement in a tony local stable, takes photos with real film, mourns his dead mother and plans to “opt out” of college because he’s fighting the system, man.
“High school is just a bunch of scared people trying to be something they’re not.”
He’ll do nicely. Let the pursuit begin, and let’s make sure to hit every single waypoint on this wellworn path along the way — his secret grief, her secret shame, awkward not-quite-a-date, Big Romantic Gesture, fistfight for honor, her keeping the “bet” secret, all of it.
At my most generous, I can say “He’s All That” passes by without a whole lot of unpleasantness as it does.
The leads don’t really click, the situations are ordained by formula and the extreme wealth grates in ways only a Kardashian fan can ignore.
Teenagers having a “Drop it like F. Scott” “Gatsby” themed birthday party in the family mansion? A pool party that would put a decade of “MTV Spring Break” beach-blasts to shame?
The film’s only bow to diversity is shoehorning in a cute same-sex flirtation for the gay BFF.
But by themselves, the chirpy Rae and sullen-according-to-script Buchanan aren’t bad. And the “makeover” montage is punctuated with a cute punchline.
“How do you feel?”
“Like I just lost ‘Dancing with the Stars!'”
The reason this formula endures is that, done right, it works. It’s proven to be Freddie Prinze Jr. proof over the centuries, from “Shrew” to “Dangerous Liaisons” and “Cruel Intentions” to any of the dozens of sitcoms that have trotted it out.
But the charm is thin and the laughs hard to find in this iteration. Aside from a little nostalgia for the middling film this is based on, “He’s All That” just isn’t all that.
Rating: TV-MA, a sexual situation, a fistfight, but mainly because of one F-bomb.
Cast: Addison Rae, Tanner Buchanan, Madison Pettis, Annie Jacob,
Isabella Crovetti, Myra Molloy, with Kourtney Kardashian, Rachel Leigh Cook and Matthew Lillard.
Credits: scripted by R. Lee Fleming Jr. A Netflix release.
Running time: 1:28