The latest edition of “Did we actually need this?” arrives at Netflix within the sort of a TikTok star’s feature debut: Addison Rae stars in “He’s All That,” a gender-swapped reimagining of “She’s All That,” the 1999 romantic comedy featuring Rachael Leigh Cook and Freddie Prinze Jr. as its leads.
Streaming Friday, the movie casts Rae within the Prinze role but updates the character for her generation. She plays Padgett Sawyer, a high-school-age beauty influencer who, after discovering that her boyfriend cheated on her, features a meltdown on Instagram Live. As for how to rebuild her self-confidence, the makeover expert accepts a classmate’s challenge to befriend an unsuspecting outcast, Cameron Kweller (Tanner Buchanan), and transform him into prom king material. Naturally, she falls for him.
This premise was already tired by the time “She’s All That” came over — the movie was loosely supported “My Fair Lady,” in any case, itself a combat “Pygmalion” — but teen comedies don’t always get to avoid tropes to succeed. What matters most are the stars’ charisma and chemistry, as “He’s All That” director Mark Waters seems cognizant, having helmed modern classics “Freaky Friday” and “Mean Girls.” Unfortunately, the new film falters on both fronts.
Many have wondered how Rae accumulated 82.8 million followers on TikTok and 38.8 million on Instagram. She’s pretty, but her dancing is nothing special; it even sparked controversy when she and Jimmy Fallon did not credit the creators of viral TikTok choreography she halfheartedly performed on “The Tonight Show.” The NY Times indicated this year that her popularity has more to try to do together with her tenure on TikTok, support from other influencers, and a raid on the sweetness industry.
Absent those factors, Rae doesn’t have an excessive amount to supply viewers. She’s an earnest actress but lacks the vocal inflection and range of facial expressions required to offer depth to Padgett. The character’s emotional arc involves her plan to stop hiding behind her influencer status, whether in terms of the makeup she wears or her preoccupation with social standing. But Rae never convincingly drops the facade herself, a forced smile plastered onto her face until the credits roll.
So what hope was there for electric chemistry with Buchanan, whose character’s most notable trait may be a wig as upsetting as his bleak outlook on the world? While a social outcast wouldn’t necessarily share the goofy sweetness of a personality like “To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before’s” Peter Kavinsky, still the reigning heartthrob of teenage rom-coms, Cameron’s sardonic nature could have led him to rework into a charmingly rebellious teenager like, say, Patrick Verona from “10 Things I Hate About You.”
Instead, we are meant to seek out Cameron interesting just because he shoots photographs on film and to think about his joining Padgett in an uncomfortable karaoke rendition of “Teenage Dream” as compelling a show of young love as belting “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You” while skipping across a group of steps.
Buchanan tries his best with the fabric — written by R. Lee Fleming Jr., who also penned the first film — as do an array of supporting acts (Madison Pettis and Myra Molloy as Padgett’s friends, and Peyton Meyer as her ex). But some things just can’t be saved, not even by the nostalgic returns of “She’s All That” stars Cook and Matthew Lillard, who appear in small, unrelated roles.