You gotta love the unabashed, cheerfully cynical nature of a movie that keeps stressing the message that today’s teens are always buried in their laptops and their tablets and their cell phones, and nothing feels real to them unless they share it on social media, and wouldn’t it be wonderful if they’d just take a breath and live in the moment …
And yet the lead in the movie is a TikTok star. Too great.
The Netflix movie “He’s All That” is a gender-swapping remake of the frothy and silly but entertaining “She’s All That” (1999), which was basically a remake of “My Fair Lady” (1964) which was a musical version of George Bernard Shaw’s “Pygmalion” (1913), and one can only imagine what ol’ GBS would think of a telling of his tale involving magical communication devices and livestreams and karaoke parties and a bunch of entitled rich kids playing dress-up in a lavish “Drop it like F. Scott” party, as in F. Scott Fitzgerald.
This movie is pure cotton candy — sweet and brightly colored and a bit of a guilty pleasure, but it’s not intended to be something you can sink your teeth into, and five minutes after consuming it, it’s like it never happened. (Shew! That’s a lot of cotton candy metaphor, but I’m STICKING with it.)
The aforementioned Addison Rae doesn’t have much range as an actress, but this ain’t Eugene O’Neill material and she’s an upbeat and likable presence as Padgett Sawyer, a California high school senior and enormously popular influencer who begins every day streaming to her hundreds of thousands of Followers, reminding them, “[This] is where we talk about makeovers, self-improvement and how to become the most spectacular ‘you’ you can be …” Everyone thinks Padgett lives in a posh condo complex and has a cushy home life because that’s what she’s led them to believe, but in reality she lives in a modest home with her mother (Rachael Leigh Cook, the Cinderella makeover subject in “She’s All That”), who works long shifts as a nurse.
Padgett is dating an utterly terrible and shallow and narcissistic preening idiot named Jordan Van Draanen (Peyton Meyer), who has scored a hit single with a horrific rap song that makes Vanilla Ice sound like Tupac — but when she catches Jordan hooking up in his trailer with his co-star on new music video, it’s over.
It’s also captured on a livestream by Padgett’s so-called best friend Alden (Madison Pettis), and somehow Padgett is the one who becomes the laughingstock because she’s caught on camera with a snot bubble as she cries, and her followers begin to desert her. Time now for the plot contrivance in which Padgett claims she doesn’t need Jordan because she’s a makeover expert and she can transform any rando loser into prom king material — and her friends choose a sullen, antisocial kid named Cameron (Tanner Buchanan from “Cobra Kai”) as her subject.
That’s right: Cameron is a bet, but he doesn’t know it, and all of a sudden, the guy who hates social media and can’t stand the phonies at his high school is giving Padgett horseback riding lessons and singing Katy Perry’s “Teenage Dream” at a karaoke party and allowing Padgett to cut his shaggy locks. Why, he’ll even ditch the flannel shirts for a snazzy suit. (And yes, there is a trying-on-hats-and-shoes-and-outfits musical montage featuring a number of characters.) Oh Cameron, you’re blinded by love!
Eventually, inevitably, Padgett finds herself falling for Cameron, who is so darn sensitive. But they’re from such different worlds. He’s an amateur photographer who doesn’t want anyone to see his pictures, while she wants every moment to be recorded. They’re just like Rick and Ilsa in “Casablanca,” or maybe not.
“He’s All That” manages to wedge in a cameo from Kourtney Kardashian as a superficial branding mogul who sponsors Padgett, and a much more entertaining appearance by “She’s All That” alum Matthew Lillard, playing Principal Bosch, who notes that for some reason there will be a dance-off at the prom (“we have some weird-ass traditions at this school”) and says just before the announcement of the king and queen: “I know this is live streaming, but if you put your phones down, it’s actually happening right here in front of you.”
Good luck with that, Principal Bosch.
It’s no spoiler to reveal we get a professionally choreographed dance number at the prom, a la the famous and fantastically ridiculous scene in “She’s All That.” This time around, it’s set to the sounds of “Dance Off” by Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, featuring Idris Elba (because yep, he’s a DJ). It’s OK, but it’s no “Rockafeller Skank” or for that matter “I Could Have Danced All Night.”