Every year around Valentine’s Day, I watch an absurd amount of romantic comedies with my friends — it’s an unavoidable series of events.
This year, I felt we had exhausted all of our options. There are only so many movies I can watch repeatedly without becoming bored.
To expand my horizons, I made the mistake of watching “He’s All That” — an offshoot of the 1999 classic “She’s All That” — last week and felt seriously embarrassed for the creators and directors of the movie.
It follows a similar yet gender-bent premise of the original movie with the addition of a few insufferable “modern” details.
The 2021 version of the main character takes the form of none other than Addison Rae as “Padgett Sawyer,” a TikTok influencer who experiences a popularity downfall when she has an outburst on a livestream over her boyfriend cheating on her.
Padgett’s romantic interest is Cameron Kweller, an unknown creative that we all have to pretend is unconventionally attractive and socially awkward for the first 45 minutes of the movie.
To reclaim her title as the most popular girl in school, Padgett takes on the “daunting” task of transforming an ugly duckling into a swan — in other words, she has to convert him from loser to prom king.
A very long story short, she gives him a makeover (she takes off his hat and gives him a haircut) and, of course, falls in love with him.
Truthfully speaking, I can’t be mad at the overarching plot of the story. I acknowledge and even embrace the corniness and repetitive tropes characteristic of the romantic comedy genre. However, Rae’s performance as the female lead was incredibly disappointing — out of love, I hope she never acts again and instead sticks to singing and dancing.
Even worse, what prevented me from enjoying the movie is a recurring theme in many recent chick flicks: the overwhelming amount of random product placement and modern media references.
Why is Rae’s character a TikTok influencer? Why is Kourtney Kardashian her brand manager? Why are you trying to sell me an EOS lip balm? Is Smartfood Popcorn even good? Why are creators trying to appeal so intensely to Gen-Z?
Nonetheless, “He’s All That” is only one of many mediocre recent romantic comedies.
Although the product inserts and references to random influencers plaguing the genre frustrate me, I think I take a bigger issue with the overall downfall that the romance movie genre has experienced since the early 2000s. Plots nowadays are immensely convoluted, and the conflict is superficial — think “He’s All That,” of course, and “The Kissing Booth.” Don’t get me started on the “After” series. I am so glad the last movie just came out and that I will never have to witness an ad of Tessa and Hardin fighting over something stupid ever again.
Anyways, give me real drama and genuine heartbreak.
I don’t think any current director could replicate the sheer shock on my 12-year-old face when Kate Hudson, who played Andie Anderson, told Matthew McConaughey, who played Benjamin Barry, that she couldn’t lose him because “you can’t lose something you never had” in “How To Lose a Guy In 10 Days.”
Beyond lackluster plots, I think we are missing real movie stars. Old movies all have iconic, star-studded casts.
Our generation is definitely feeling the absence of romcom actor staples. We need equivalents of Matthew McConaughey, Kate Hudson, Julia Roberts, Hugh Grant, Drew Barrymore and Mark Ruffalo.
Further, I feel romance movies have taken a backseat to action movies in the 2010s and 2020s.
While I also enjoy the Marvel franchise, everywhere I go is some type of advertisement for the latest blockbuster action film in their newest superhero series. By nature, they also don’t bring the same feelings of cheerfulness. Likewise, horror movies with monotonous, generic formulas have completely taken over the big screens as of recently.
Overall, I think everyone needs a happy movie to enjoy from time to time, and a rom- com provides just that. Rumor has it that “Anyone But You,” starring Sydney Sweeney and Glen Powell, is the beginning of the 2000s chick flick revival. I have yet to watch it, but I am hopeful it marks the start of a powerful renaissance.