The teen comedy traditionally comes in two flavors: cynical or saccharine. She’s All That is a film of the latter variety. It’s simple, straightforward and ultimately pleasing.
Zack Siler (Freddie Prinze, Jr.) has it made. He’s the class president, the most popular kid in school, and a shoo-in for Prom King. Yet, when his girlfriend, Taylor Vaughan (Jodi Lyn O’Keefe), dumps him for the obnoxious star of MTV’s Real World, Brock Hudson (Matthew Lillard), Zack’s entire world is turned upside down.
However, Zack is confident that he can rebound. So confident, in fact, that he accepts a bet from his best friend, Dean (Paul Walker). He claims that he could date any girl in school, no matter how unpopular, and get her crowned Prom Queen.
Enter Laney Boggs (Rachael Leigh Cook), the cold and distant artistic student who becomes the unknowing object of Zack’s bet. She doesn’t care about proms or popularity, and it shows. However, will the intensity of Zack’s attention be enough to change her mind?
Anyone familiar with Pygmalion, My Fair Lady, or even Pretty Woman, knows all the relevant plot points that She’s All That will hit. It’s a simplistic story, and She’s All That never strays far from its borders.
However, at least both of the leads are appealing. Freddie Prinze, Jr. seems to fit the “class president” role well, but Rachael Leigh Cook (though enjoyable onscreen) isn’t quite the “unpopular” type. Even with severe glasses and a dour disposition, she seems more amiable than the average teen. But, you can’t ask for too much realism in a fantasy like this one.
The supporting cast deliver mixed pleasures. Matthew Lillard is appropriately self-absorbed as the obnoxious MTV celebrity. Laney’s brother Simon (Kieran Culkin), and Zack’s sister Mackenzie (Anna Paquin) are, at times, more interesting than their respective siblings. However, the film’s foils (O’Keefe and Walker) are painfully flat.
Older viewers, tired of this familiar formula, won’t find She’s All That to be all that…but, for its target audience, high school teens, She’s All That hits the right notes.