The reimagining of the 90s classic, She’s All That, now called He’s All That, starring Addison Rae, premiered on Netflix last week. And it’s an early test case of whether or not a TikToker can be taken seriously in Hollywood and make the jump to acting.
The 1999 movie starring Rachael Leigh Cook and Freddie Prinze Jr. had the high school charm specific to that era and even though it had a predictable storyline, there was a simple sweetness to it. Although She’s All That didn’t reach critically acclaimed status in its time, like so many other movies of that era, it has pop culture status, beloved by its generation. And, as is almost always the case, the original is better.
In He’s All That, Addison plays Padgett Sawyer, the popular girl who tries to prove she can make certified high school loser Cameron Kweller, played by Tanner Buchanan, into a cool kid, and obviously they end up falling in love at the end. It was a nice rounding touch to have Rachael Leigh Cook play Padgett’s mom, but this version of the movie had unnecessary social media jargon that worked against Addision in her bid for conventional mainstream celebrity fame.
Addison has been doing a little bit of everything since she has emerged on the scene. She’s taken on dancing, singing, modelling, and even some reality TV, but just like many other influencers, it seemed like she’s just been trying everything and seeing what will stick (and what attracts the most attention). Since Addison has gained the fame and followers for her personality instead of talent, there is a race for her to act fast and find something sustainable that she can anchor onto when her personality becomes overshadowed by the next sparkly personality on TikTok. It’s also a race to legitimise her fame, because despite social media influencers being invited into spaces they haven’t before, there are still old guard gatekeepers determined to keep maintain the celebrity status quo. When these fake seating charts of the Met Gala went around, people were not happy about Addison sharing a table with Lady Gaga and Beyoncé.
Addison’s stint with music has not seemed to progress much. She’s had good performances of her song, “Obsessed”, but it did not get much traction on the charts, and she hasn’t dropped any songs since then. Although she’s still trying to figure out what works best for her, and while there is certainly potential, if she wants to be able to sit at Lady Gaga and Beyoncé’s table, she has to (or thinks she has to) make sure she proves herself as more than just a TikToker – and on TikTok, your major commodity is personality. Which is the reason why this movie debut was so important. In acting, it’s about playing other people; you can shade your character with elements of your experience, but it’s still putting on a mask. But this isn’t what’s happening in He’s All That: Addison Rae is playing herself.
The movie took the simple teen life from She’s All That, and made it into an influencer-crazed high school. The antagonist is an obnoxious popstar who somehow still goes to public school, and Addison’s character is an influencer who gives tips for making your best-self come to reality. So the movie presents itself as an example of what life would be like for Addison if she continued to go to high school. Her character wakes up and goes live on TikTok right away, she takes photos everywhere she goes for content, and the younger characters in the show adore her. To top it off, she doesn’t come off as arrogant or self-centred, which is what we have gotten from other influencer characters in movies. Padgett is bubbly, always happy, and has dramatic facial expressions--all things that made Addison famous on TikTok. They even go as far as having Kourtney Kardashian play Padgett’s mentor, Jessica Miles Torres. Having Kourtney in the movie is great for the press of it all, but not great for Addison’s budding acting career. In the short term, sure, leaning into Addison’s reality and blurring it with the fiction is expected. But that also means it’s predictable. She needs to be able to reach out and do things on her own to show that her value can stand alone, and bringing her highly-publicized celebrity friend onto her first acting job sets a precedent that she can’t do it on her own.
Plus, Addison playing a positive and bubbly TikToker (yes, the movie literally uses TikTok) does not prove her acting ability. The great Sandra Oh spoke with Vanity Fair recently about how the art of acting comes when you play characters that are different from who you are. She says what drew her to Cristina Yang on Grey’s Anatomy was how “prickly” the character was in comparison to Sandra’s nature (we all saw how that worked out for her).
That said, He’s All That isn’t necessarily a total fail. Remaking She’s All That into a social media-driven movie was obviously a move to attract the younger generation. As frustrating as it is for kids to see adults try and imitate what life is like for them, the movie did do better with a younger demographic in comparison to what the critics thought (my 14-year-old brother thought it was actually a good watch). In some ways, the same could be said for the 1999 original. Those who were under 30 back then warmly embraced it – and that affection has grown over time. It’s possible that the people of Addison and my brother’s generation will feel the same way about this movie. But attachment to a movie doesn’t necessarily translate to attachment for its star. And I’m not sure He’s All That has done enough to establish Addison as a star beyond social media.