‘He’s All That’ isn’t all that

Netflix’s new teen rom-com fails in more respects than one

by Audrey Gray, staff

Teen movies have been given a terrible reputation for so long for a reason. They’re probably the genre most likely to make the most common and hated mistakes in romantic comedy movies— most egregiously, shallow plots and two-dimensional characters made up of trope stacked upon trope.

At its core, “He’s All That” is another title to add to the ranks of poorly-rated and contrived teen comedies that somehow contain all of the rom-com faux pas and so many more poor choices. If you’re unsure what I mean, I suggest the fun little game of “spot the brand deal” to whoever decides to watch the movie. It doesn’t take a genius to find all of the logos and brand names slapped into the boring and overdone plot.

I suggest the fun little game of ‘spot the brand deal’ to whoever decides to watch the movie”

With the sheer amount of whipped-out 90-minute movies with identical structures and manufactured conflicts being produced, it doesn’t seem like making a good or subversive film is really at the forefront of most commercial movie studios’ priorities. And frankly, it’s astounding how unexceptional “He’s All That” feels.

For those who don’t know, “He’s All That” is a gender-swapped remake of 90s rom-com “She’s All That,” considered by many to be a teen classic. “He’s All That” is an updated, 2021 version of its source material, which follows a teenage social media influencer who, in wake of a scandal, loses a brand deal and takes on the challenge to make over a random “loser” in her school in order to regain followers. It’s not very different from the original movie’s premise of a jock making over a textbook antisocial, artsy nerd girl, and just as equally predictable—If you can’t already tell, in both movies our protagonist falls in love with their project, and ends up coping with how to break to their new crush that they’ve just been a bet the entire time.

It’s impossible not to take note of how the creators failed in half of the movie’s entire premise, the supposed “subversion” of the ugly duckling trope that they went for by making the fixer-upper male instead of female. I would be very skeptical to call the makeover in “He’s All That” a transformation, because it was, somehow, more unbelievable than the one in its source material.

In the case of “He’s All That,” it wasn’t the girl taking off her glasses and overalls and suddenly becoming beautiful— they gave the guy a haircut, put him in a suit, and didn’t even bother trying to give him a character arc to make him more likeable and less of an insufferable jerk. He warms up to our hero, the ineffable makeover guru, and that’s it— he doesn’t have any kind of redemption for all the patronizing and insulting comments he makes to her, because somehow, the movie doesn’t even see it as an issue. And that’s not good, because it destroys the only chance the audience has of liking this couple at the end of the film, and destroys the only semblance of growth this movie could show in its two main characters.

And somehow, that’s not even the worst of it. The pacing of “He’s All That” is unbelievable. There’s no break in the lightning-fast rate at which the plot progresses— it’s one scene full of quick, badly-written dialogue after another, with no pause and no respite in scene transitions. The movie simultaneously feels way shorter and way longer than its 91-minute runtime because of the sheer amount of stuff they try to throw in there, and it just doesn’t work.

It’s painfully obvious how much of a thoughtless cash grab this movie was, not just by the casting of a TikToker with mediocre talent as the lead and the relentless product placement. It’s rushed, inane, and shallow, with nothing added to the already overdone premise— overall it gets a 2/10, just for the merit of not being as bad as it could have been. 

The acting wasn’t the worst I’ve ever seen and, although the paper-thin plot was way more dimensionless than its predecessor, it does make an effort to make its side characters a little bit more than tropes slapped onto human bodies, attempting diversity and actual personalities. But honestly, that seems to be just about the only effort this movie makes.

If anyone out there is considering making a teen rom-com, I have some advice, stemming from a place of deep trauma: respect your audience’s intelligence.

Audreby Promotional credit of Netflix