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How ‘He’s All That’ Updates A Classic Teen Movie For A New Generation While Staying True To Its Roots

More than two decades after She’s All That turned Freddie Prinze Jr. and Rachael Leigh Cook into teen movie icons and made everyone wish their school had a campus DJ like Usher, Netflix has updated the beloved romantic comedy—itself a take on George Bernard Shaw’s play Pygmalion—for a new generation. He’s All That, debuting Friday, Aug. 27, brings the story into the 21st century with a gender-flipped narrative that pays homage to its roots while modernizing the story in exciting ways.

TikTok star Addison Rae leads the film as Padgett Sawyer, a social media maven who loses her sponsorships after a devastating video of her breakup with a classmate and popular TikTok star Jordan (Peyton Meyer) goes viral for all the wrong reasons. To salvage her reputation and prove she’s still got what it takes to be an influencer, Padgett makes a bet with her friends that she can transform anti-social photographer Cameron Kweller (Tanner Buchanan) into the prom king.

For fans of the original film, there is a lot to like about He’s All That, which Rae says is more of a reimagining than a straight remake. “We really took the idea and the essence of the original movie and modernized it in a way,” she says. “The storyline is slightly different and there are a lot of nods to the original. I think fans are going to be impressed.”

Having Rae’s Padgett step into the shoes of Prinze’s Zack Siler is just one of the ways in which the film reimagines the story of two teens from different social circles finding each other and discovering new things about themselves along the way. But it also shifts the power dynamics of the original film and helps to update the central message of the story as well. “Watching the way that Padgett really changes throughout the movie and realizes a lot of things about herself is really awesome and inspiring for lots of young people who are going through the changes that social media brings to the world,” explains Rae.

However, the gender-flipped narrative is not the only way the film updates the beloved movie for today’s teens while also staying true to its roots. Two actors from She’s All That have supporting roles in the new film; Rachael Leigh Cook brings understanding to Padgett’s mom, Anna, while Matthew Lillard, who memorably brought to life the egocentric Real World cast member Brock Hudson in the original, takes on the role of high school principal. According to Rae, having them involved in the production was beneficial to the cast in addition to being a nod to the original. “They were so open to any questions that we asked. They’re both such respected actors, and just getting their input on things was so incredible,” she says. “The energy they brought to the set was so fun. Matthew is hilarious. Rachael is so calm and sweet and just collected. These are people that I look up to and have looked up to, and being able to have them be a part of this was such a blessing. I think everyone would say the same thing.”

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Lillard’s casting isn’t the only way his turn in She’s All That comes into play in the movie though. In 1999, MTV’s reality show The Real World, which followed several strangers while they lived in a house together, was at the height of its popularity. Pop culture has changed dramatically in the years since the film debuted while technology has advanced. Teens spend more time on their phones than watching reality shows, so He’s All That found a way to capture the essence of Brock and update the character for 2021. Padgett’s ex-boyfriend, Jordan, is a popular TikTok star desperate to be the center of attention and have every minute of his life be recorded. He is analogous to Brock being a former Real World cast member who cares only about himself. Jordan and Padgett both being social media stars also, of course, speaks to Rae’s own rise to fame as a popular star on TikTok.

But when it comes down to it, perhaps the one thing that She’s All That fans remember most about the film is the iconic but seemingly random dance sequence that occurs in the last act of the film. Luckily for everyone, He’s All That writer R. Lee Fleming Jr.—who also penned the original film—knew better than to leave that particular moment in 1999, especially given the popularity of TikTok dances. So another dance-off occurs at the prom, but this time with a sly sense of self-awareness. Still, for Rae and the rest of the cast, the dance sequence was a highlight of filming. “That was one of the most fun things we did,” she says. “We did the dance so many times, and none of us were ready to give it up. Whenever the last take was done, we were like, “Let’s do it again! Please, let’s do it again.”

“Being in a dance studio with everyone and all of us learning our parts and putting our own twist on it, that was so much fun,” she adds. “Even just doing it the day of and having that dance battle was just so much fun for all of us to experience together. We had a blast.”

Despite the timeless lessons of its central narrative, She’s All That was largely a product of its time, and its soundtrack reflects that. It features everyone from the Black Eyed Peas and Liz Phair to Fatboy Slim and, OK, also Rick James. But the song that everyone associates with the movie—Sixpence None the Richer’s “Kiss Me”—finds new life in the film via a well-placed remix. “There were so many great things that we took from the original that are in this movie,” Rae explains. “Using ‘Kiss Me’—that was awesome just to be able to take that nod to the original and really show that the movie is still kind of the same thing but with a lot of twists.”

See all the twists for yourself when He’s All That premieres Friday, Aug. 27 on Netflix.

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