Review: He’s All That: A clean teen rom-com with a Pygmalion template

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Film: He’s All That (Playing on Netflix)
Duration: 92 minutes

Director: Mark Waters
Cast: Addison Rae, Tanner Buchanan, Madison Pettis, Isabella Crovetti, Peyton Meyer, Annie Jacob, Myra Molly and Rachael Leigh Cook.
IANS Rating: ***

“You show me yours I’ll show you mine,” she said.

“Oh everyone has seen yours,” he replied.

Now, now … don’t let your mind run amok. The duo in this teen romance film are only discussing their collection of photographs. “Sorry, that came out dirtier than I intended it to,” the guy quickly rejoins.

That’s how clean this high-school rom-com is.

The tale revolves around social media lifestyle influencer Padgett Sawyer (Addison Rae), who lives with her self-sacrificing single mom, Anna (Rachael Leigh Cook). Padgett’s life is superficially perfect, with her offering “make-over suggestions of how to be spectacular” to her legion of fans.

After she’s caught on the wrong foot while having a meltdown with rapper-boyfriend Jordan (Peyton Meyer), her life touches nadir. Padgett’s followers drop and soon she loses her sponsors.

To turn her life back, and regain her clout and prestige with her business associate, Padgett takes up a challenge with her best friends, Alden (Madison Pettis) and Quinn (Myra Molloy), to turn the worst loser of their school into a force to reckon with.

Her eyes fall on Cameron Kweller (Tanner Buchanan), a low-key boy who hangs around with his bestie, Nisha Mandyan (Annie Jacob), who happens to be a lesbian. How Padgett befriends Cameron, and then falls hook line and sinker for him, forms the crux of this narrative.

Packed with all tropes of this genre, ‘He’s all that’ is no different. It is a cute, charming film at its best. Far from anything cheesy, the plot seems to have a bit of the ‘Pygmalion’ template.

Padgett has her reasons and motivation to change Cameron, but the change is not just one-sided. Both enhance each other’s lives. She brings him out of his shell and he encourages her to embrace life’s imperfections.

Addison Rae portrays the smart, popular girl Padgett with ease. Buchanan as Cameron is subtly dynamic and appealing. Together they share a fabulous on-screen chemistry.

Among the supporting cast, Matthew Lillard, as the school principal, steals the show with his little jig at the Prom Night. Annie Jacob as Nisha, Myra Molloy as Quinn, Peyton Meyer as Jordon, Rachael Leigh Cook as Padgett’s mom, and Cameron’s sister Brin have their moments of onscreen glory.

Visually, the film is contemporary in its appearance with smart phones used as a tool and text-bubbles popping up on screen, mimicking Padgett’s live streams. Will this teen romance make your heart melt away? Nah, but it will surely engage you.



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