“He’s All That” provides self-aware commentary on digital fame

Addison Rae and Tanner Buchanan hold each other and gaze forward while set against a backdrop of palm trees and LA skyline.
Addison Rae leaves TikTok’s small screen for Netflix in the semi-self-referential role of beauty influencer Pagett Sawyer. (Photo courtesy of Netflix)

In an era where social media stars are invited to the Met Gala, it’s natural for their next conquest to be the silver screen. “He’s All That” — a remake of the 1999 rom-com “She’s All That” — starring TikTok darling Addison Rae released Aug. 27 on Netflix. The film focuses on Padgett Sawyer, a beauty influencer specializing in makeovers. When her famous boyfriend cheats on her and her ensuing breakdown is broadcasted live on social media, Padgett loses all her brand deals and must find a way to get the money back so she can afford to go to university. Capitalizing on the fame garnered from her makeover content, Padgett tries to transform unpopular classmate Tanner Buchanan into prom king in order to regain the followers she lost. The film opens with Padgett maintaining her perfect influencer façade. She wakes up twice – once to make herself presentable for her followers: brushing her teeth, fixing her hair and applying makeup, and again to document her “real morning routine.” 

These critiques of influencer culture are present from the beginning. Mark Waters, director of the film, satirizes the unattainable lifestyle and image influencers show their followers and fans — and it’s all the more ironic when the influencer is played by social media aficionado Rae. 

Kourtney Kardashian appears in a minor role as an owner of a brand that sponsors Padgett. It’s actually a really fun addition to the film, though underutilized. Hearing Kardashian’s Californian accent and monotone speech is enough to elicit a giggle out of anyone. 

Former “Girl Meets World” star Peyton Meyer stars as Padgett’s sleazy boyfriend Jordan Van Draanen (AKA JVD). JVD becomes a caricature — a critique of the ease of fame during the age of social media. While clearly untalented, he remains loved for reasons no one can really determine. Even in the face of Padgett’s live-streamed breakdown where anyone watching can clearly see JVD is at fault for cheating on her, he still manages to frame himself as the victim. 

JVD’s one and only single, which has somehow garnered him hundreds of thousands of followers, consists mostly of the words “La La La.” (He sings it at every opportunity — even karaoke.) Padgett scathingly insults the song where he recounts his “difficult” childhood. “Oh, and by the way,” Padgett says, “There are no mean streets of Pali. You live on the same block as Gwyneth Paltrow.”

Toward the end of the film the critique is more glaring and borders on cheesy. In the typical Mark-Waters-Mean-Girls-Esque scene where the female lead wins prom queen and forfeits the crown to get with the male love interest, Padgett gives a surface-level speech about the perils of being fake on social media. She shares photos of “the real her” — featuring her actually waking up and one where she has a pimple — oh the horror. “For the last four years, I’ve been so busy selling myself on social media, putting out this image of who I wanted people to think I am,” Padgett says “This perfect person with perfect makeup, perfect clothes, perfect grades, the perfect boyfriend.”

With a TV-14 rating the message could land for middle schoolers to maybe sophomores in high school, but for any viewer older than that it’s a bit too shallow. As a reboot, the film inevitably invites comparison to the original. In a virtual college roundtable promoting the film attended by the Daily Trojan, Buchanan spoke about how the original influenced how he performed his role. 

“It’s trying your best to make sure that anybody that [is a fan] of the original are going to be happy with it and understand that maybe it’s not the same exact character,” Buchanan said. “So it did influence [it a lot]. But not at all, if that makes sense.”

“[It’s] like how can I make this movie almost make you feel the same way, but not by doing everything they’re doing in that movie,” Rae said.

Other than the critique of microcelebrity and social media, the acting is adequate. The performances are not spectacular, but none are so terrible they take you out of the film. Even Rae in her first film role demonstrates promise. She described her experiences seeking out acting coaches and doing script analysis to help her prepare for the role.

“I auditioned, did some self-tapes, did many self-tapes, actually, many, many, many, probably, like 10 different versions, just like of different scenes and just seeing how well it [fit],” Rae said. 

Tanner Buchanan’s rendition of the unpopular makeover subject Cameron Kweller is moderately better. However, Kweller’s portrayal is still the stereotypically edgy, jaded above-it-all Jughead Jones-esque kind of character that toes the line between arrogant and charming. 

The harshest disruption of the film is the brazen and obnoxious product placement — just how many times do we need to see an EOS product to know they were financially involved in the film? Other brands are heavily featured with a character blatantly asking “Can I get some KFC to go?” 

Other low points include random dance breaks and singing numbers. Rae performs a decent rendition of “Teenage Dream” by Katy Perry along with Buchanan but it feels unnecessary to the story. The randomly added dance competition before the prom scene is too long and another superfluous addition. It seemed like a bid to include some kind of acknowledgment of Rae’s dancing history and ability rather than to contribute anything useful to the plot. 

Overall, if you suspend your latent superiority complex and watch it like a middle schooler with 10 hours worth of daily TikTok screen time, it’s a pretty enjoyable film.