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‘She’s All That’ Turns 20! Why the Teen Comedy Is Still All That

Time flies when you’re performing an improvisational poetry slam about hacky sack. As if you need another reason to feel old(er), January marks the 20th anniversary of She’s All That. In one year, it will be legally allowed to drink beer.

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A high school spin on classics Pygmalion and My Fair Lady, the comedy followed a BMOC (Freddie Prinze Jr.) who takes a bet from his friend Dean (Paul Walker) that he can turn any girl into prom queen in six weeks flat. They settle on Laney Boggs (Rachael Leigh Cook), an introverted, blue-collar artist who works as a cashier at a falafel restaurant when she’s not painting.

‘She’s All That’ Turns 20! Why the Teen Comedy Is Still All That
Freddie Prinze Jr. and Rachael Leigh Cook in ‘She’s All That.’ Courtesy of Miramax Films

She’s All That didn’t feature any household names in the cast, got a deadly end-of-January release date and sits at a putrid 39 percent on Rotten Tomatoes. What do movie critics know anyway? The movie grossed $63 million at the box office, marking the unofficial start of a Y2K teen movie boom — Cruel Intentions, 10 Things I Hate About You, Never Been Kissed, Election and American Pie all followed in quick succession. Read that list again.

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Two decades later, the movie remains an endlessly and effortlessly watchable treat. It’s aged well and yet it represents a distinctly breezy moment in time just before we all started texting Emojis to telegraph our feelings. Need more incentive for a She’s All That reunion? Here are five reasons why it remains all that.

1. Peak Freddie Prinze Jr.

Fact: In the late 1990s, girls plastered their walls with just as many posters of Freddie Prinze Jr. as they did of Leonardo DiCaprio. (I have the Teen People staff credentials to prove this.) The tall, dark and handsome son of the late Freddie Prinze was a teen dream, and She’s All That was the piece de resistance. Unlike other high school prom kings depicted on the big screen, his Zack Siler was a soccer jock who also had the smarts to get into an array of Ivy League schools. All while dealing with parental pressure at home, mind you! More impressive, Prinze didn’t play him as a sniveling jerk. Underneath that varsity jacket was a heart of gold. Fine, silver. Prinze never could top this performance, making the most out of duds such as Head Over Heels, Boys and Girls and Summer Catch. But he did settle down with I Know What You Did Last Summer costar Sarah Michelle Gellar. He wins!

‘She’s All That’ Turns 20! Why the Teen Comedy Is Still All That
Freddie Prinze Jr. and Rachael Leigh Cook in ‘She’s All That.’ Courtesy of Miramax Films

2. That Makeover Scene

Let’s preface this one by stating that inner beauty is most important and focusing just on looks is totally not OK. And yet there’s just something so irresistible and satisfying about The Movie Makeover. The Breakfast Club. The Devil Wears Prada. The Princess Diaries. Clueless. Can’t Buy Me Love. Miss Congeniality. Grease. With just a little mascara, hair gel and some formfitting clothes, a swan is born. In She’s All That, an Oscar-winning actress — Anna Paquin, as Zack’s sister — does the honors, ridding Laney of her glasses and bushy brows. The moment in which she tentatively walks down the steps in that red dress to the wispy tune of Sixpence None the Richer’s “Kiss Me” is the reason Sephora exists.

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3. “Rockefella Skank”

Right about now, you’re probably flashing back to the She’s All That prom scene. It doesn’t get more wonderfully millennial than Usher, playing the school’s resident DJ, spinning the Fatboy Slim hit “Rockafella Skank.” Enter another teen movie staple — synchronized dancing! Zack and his obnoxious ex Taylor (Jodi Lyn O’Keefe) take the floor along with their classmates and work their bodies in ways that kind of resembles Michael Jackson’s “Thriller.” Not to be confused with the “Thriller” dance scene in 13 Going on 30. The prom scene is also a stand out because underdog Laney does not take the stage to give a contrived speech that explains the true meaning of friendship and love and being yourself.

4. No Social Media

Before Instagram, SnapChat, Facebook, Twitter and [insert super-trendy social media platform here], people had to achieve mass popularity through old-fashioned hard work and ingenuity. This meant going on The Real World and/or dating a star from The Real World. Original mean girl Taylor knows this and hooks up with a dude named Brock (hilarious Matthew Lillard) — who appeared on the L.A. edition of the iconic MTV hit — during spring break. Taylor gets her precious prom queen title, but she must also learn the rule: A reality star is always on the hunt for a better gig. Brock dumps her as soon as he gets his spinoff. Sick burn.

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‘She’s All That’ Turns 20! Why the Teen Comedy Is Still All That
Rachael Leigh Cook in ‘She’s All That.’ Courtesy of Miramax Films

5. “Am I a F—king Bet?!”

Thank you, Laney, for injecting a little rated-R exclamation in the PG-13 hijinks at precisely the right instant. She had every right to be peeved: Shame on Zack and Dean for using her as a pawn. When she finally learns of the bet, she unloads on both the guys and goes to the prom with a friend instead. This is the high school heroine we deserve! Zack does eventually offer a sincere mea culpa and dance with Laney outside her house by the pool (which includes an A-plus Pretty Woman analogy), but I have no doubt she went off to that art school and met a sweet, sensitive soul who appreciated her on the outside and in. After all, the movie isn’t titled He’s All That.

She’s All That is now streaming on Starz

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