The end of the Gen X era (era) and beginning of the Millennial era (era) during 1996 to 2001 was a golden age for teen cinema. I was 16 years old when She’s All That was released in January 1999 and seeing films like this, Scream, I Know What You Did Last Summer, The Faculty, 10 Things I Hate About You, Cruel Intentions, and Varsity Blues (just to name a few) was a big part of being a teenager. They were my John Hughes movies. Quoting a line from something like American Pie was done often at lunch by my friends and me. These were movies you could see on dates and take around with you by playing their soundtracks again and again in your car. 1999 was a period where a pop sensibility was taking over again for teenagers and the movies reflected that. Everything was packaged. Stars crossed over from music to television to film and the actors were famous for being famous (they all ended up on TRL) just as often as famous for their work. It was all normal to people my age. You would see actors from these films so often that they became one-sided friends themselves. Upon revisiting She’s All That, it feels like it’s been...well...20 years. Much has changed -- and by much, I mean real-life teenagers had to grow up really fast for the world that was about to happen to them in 1999 and thereafter.
Josie and the Pussycats royalty) because he inexplicably thinks she’s the biggest challenge. That plot is quickly de-emphasized, thankfully, and She’s All That evolves into a sweet getting-to-know-you romance between two teens who are not as mismatched as it would initially seem. A romantic movie obviously needs a couple worth rooting for as a solid foundation and She’s All That has one. Prinze Jr. can only project sweetness and affability on screen, and Cook is really good as the girl who isn’t quite the ugly duckling that the My Fair Lady/Pygmalion conceit of the film would suggest.
The best way I can describe the use of “Kiss Me” in She’s All That is to say it ascends two separate scenes into the heavens that might have not worked without it. The first is Laney’s big debutante moment, where she walks down the stairs with her new makeover. At first, only the instrumental section of the song is playing, beginning with a wistful/wounded violin, followed by anticipatory guitar strums, which brilliantly repeat a verse as we, the audience, anticipate Laney’s entrance like the characters are in the movie. When she walks down the stairs to reveal her new look, “Kiss Me” kicks in fully with the lyrics, causing a combined effect where I thought “She IS all that!” If Sixpence None The Richer didn’t Stop Making Sense their performance of “Kiss Me” in concert (i.e. unspooling it one instrument at a time), that’s a missed opportunity. The other moment that uses “Kiss Me” is the final graduation scene that leans heavily on the violin section. It works because it has a “Here’s to the next step” overtone that combines with Rachael Leigh Cook’s triumphant character arc and sends the movie into the stratosphere as the end credits begin.
So, what’s She’s All That’s legacy 20 years later? It’s all that. Duh!