We’ve all been dying to see how “He’s All That,” starring TikTok star Addison Rae, compares to the ‘90s classic “She’s All That.”
The one thing Hollywood just loves to do? Do remakes of all its biggest hits, of course. It’s popular to hate on remakes simply because they’re remakes, but sometimes, they’re truly worth the watch (A Star is Born, anyone?).
But the one remake we’ve all been not-so-patiently awaiting all summer long? Netflix’s He’s All That (starring TikToker Addison Rae) – the gender-swapped retelling of the ‘90s hit teen classic, She’s All That (starring Freddie Prinze, Jr. and Rachael Leigh Cook).
With She’s All That having come out over 20 years ago, it was only a matter of time before a reimagining of the ultra-successful teen movie arrived. But for all of us who grew up watching the original, how did He’s All That measure up?
How the Plots Differed
She’s All That kicks off with uber-popular, conceited Zack (Freddie Prinze, Jr.) being broken up with out of the blue. After telling his friends he could replace his ex with any other girl, they challenge him to a bet: Turn the school’s biggest loser into Prom Queen. Zack then sets his sights upon Laney Boggs (Rachael Leigh Cook), an artsy outcast, and embarks on his quest. But over the course of the film, Zack starts to fall for Laney, and the two form an actual bond.
He’s All That took a slightly different approach. While the basic premise of “popular kid befriends the loser on a bet” was still present, the reasoning was different. Padgett (Addison Rae) is a bubbly influencer who regularly does makeovers for views. But after she catches her boyfriend cheating on her and throws an embarrassing fit while livestreaming and starts losing followers, her friends challenge her to make over the school weirdo, Cameron (Tanner Buchanan), in order to get her numbers back up. Once again, as the film progresses, Padgett and Cameron develop real feelings for each other.
He’s All That Was Free of Casual Sexism
We’re all well-aware that the ‘90s still had its fair share of casual sexism – commenting on women’s bodies was far more acceptable, and what was considered teasing then would be considered harassment now.
She’s All That, while beloved, is dated by today’s standards, and did unfortunately have moments that focused just a bit too much on teenaged girl’s bodies – with male characters making a few crass comments. Along with that, there were a couple of overly-mature scenes.
He’s All That was refreshingly free of body commentary, over-sexualization, and mature scenes that felt uncomfortable. In that way, it felt more wholesome, respectful, and aware of the place in life that teens are generally in – the one opportunity that arose for a sex scene cut away before anything at all happened.
But the Original Had Better Character Arcs
She’s All That did an excellent job of carving out its characters. From the first 10 minutes of the film, we see that Zack is the definition of an incredibly privileged, over-confident kid who thinks the world of himself, and isn’t particularly likable or relatable to begin with.
Laney Boggs, on the other hand, immediately jumps out at the audience as the “different girl” – a girl who marches to the beat of her own drum, is unapologetically artsy and interesting, and whose life couldn’t be more different from Zack’s. For anyone who wasn’t popular in school, Laney is oh so relatable.
As Zack and Laney interact, we see just how different these characters are. She sees everything that’s wrong with the world, while he tells her to lighten up. In a classic case of opposites attracting, Zack and Laney eventually begin to appreciate one another, seeing the world differently because of the other’s presence in their life. Zack becomes more empathetic, thoughtful, and actually falls for her. Laney steps out of her comfort zone, embraces her femininity, and becomes less pessimistic.
By the end of the movie, Zack and Laney have changed, creating an interesting, meaningful journey for the audience to follow along with. We actually feel like our time spent watching was worth it because of the strong character arcs.
He’s All That, on the other hand, spent less time creating specific, fleshed-out identities for our main characters, instead establishing protagonists that didn’t shift as much over the course of the film.
Padgett begins as a girl who’s maybe a tad bit vapid and obsessed with documenting her life on social media. But we quickly discover it’s because she’s secretly poor and is desperate to find a way to pay for college through sponsorships. She helps her mom with paying the bills, and quite obviously doesn’t fit in with her astonishingly rich, entitled friends. This creates a character who’s empathetic from the very start, but it makes it difficult for significant growth to occur as the story progresses.
Cameron’s character arc, while portrayed well and charmingly by Buchanan, relied on his haircut mid-way through the film. Don’t get me wrong, his hair was much better afterwards, but that also ended up being the most interesting thing to happen to him. When we first meet him, he’s a wacky, antisocial photographer who hates all things popular. By the end, that’s still who he is. Granted, his character was truer to the original story than Padgett’s, but we also aren’t surprised by where he ended up when the credits roll. Perhaps it’s more difficult to show audiences a significant change when we can’t pile on makeup and a cute red dress, as with Laney Boggs.
He’s All That Gave Us an Overly-Polished World
The original telling perfectly captured the world of a teen — Laney dressed like an actual odd-ball teenager, and Zack, despite being rich, wore relatively normal clothes. No one had picture-perfect hair and makeup. Their houses not only looked like everyday houses, but matched the character’s status. At no point does the audience have a “Teens don’t actually look like that” moment.
He’s All That fell into the same trap that the grand majority of teen entertainment does today: the world wasn’t totally relatable to teens. The outfits looked to be outside a teen’s budget, everyone’s hair and makeup looked like it had been touched up three seconds prior, and the houses didn’t feel lived-in.
She’s All That Felt Higher Stakes
One thing every actor will hear approximately one hundred thousand times throughout their career is “The stakes need to be higher,” meaning, the audience needs to feel that whatever is said or done in a significant moment in the story really matters in the grand scheme of things, otherwise, we don’t really care about what we’re watching unfold.
She’s All That has its fair share of high stakes moments – from the moment Zack and Laney look at each other and realize there’s more than meets the eye, to when Laney slowly walks down the stairs to reveal her makeover, to when she finds out that she was just a bet, to when Zack ditches his prom to save Laney from getting taken advantage of by another guy. These moments were significant moments for the characters, so they were equally important to the audience.
He’s All That missed several high stakes moments that the original hit on – from the moment Padgett’s friends make the bet, to when Padgett comes clean to Cameron about the bet, to when she leaves prom to find him outside. It was clear that these moments were supposed to feel significant, but they didn’t quite hit the same way as in the original telling.
It’s hard to remake a beloved movie and truly measure up. While the treatment of teens in He’s All That thankfully wasn’t weighed down with sexism and over-sexualization, it’s safe to say that She’s All That will retain its classic teen movie status.
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