How to Build a Better Boy is a Disney Channel Original Movie directed by Paul Hoen and written by Jason Mayland. It stars China Anne McClain, Kelli Berglund and Marshall Williams. The first images were shown during a promo for Disney Channel's Summer 2014, while the first promo aired on June 27, 2014 during the premiere of the Disney Channel Original Movie Zapped. The film premiered on August 15, 2014.
"Mae Hartley (Kelli Berglund) and Gabby Harrison (China Anne McClain) are super smart tenth graders. The two of them have finished a calculus test under 9 minutes much to the annoyance of the other classmates. Mae has a crush on jock Jaden (Noah Centineo), and thinks that he is going to invite her to Homecoming dance. But Mae gets publicly humiliated by cheerleader Nevaeh (Ashley Argota) who is already going with Jaden. In her embarrassment, Mae claims that she already has a boyfriend. To cover the lie, Gabby offers to program a virtual boyfriend for Mae using a computer software called the X-17 which is owned by Mae's father Dr. James Hartley (Roger Bart) which they think is used to design high definition video game characters. Gabby successfully creates a virtual boyfriend according to Mae's direction, and names him Albert.
The X-17 software goes haywire and short circuits Mae's dad's computer. Mae's brother Bart (Matt Shively) agrees to fix the computer if Gabby will go to homecoming with him. But the next morning, Albert (Marshall Williams) actually shows up at school, amazing everyone, especially Nevaeh. Albert soon shows that he can speed read and throw/kick harder than normal humans. Bart tells Gabby she created a robot soldier and hacked into the Pentagon (where his dad happens to work for the United States Department of Defense that uses Superior Gaming as a front) to do so. But this creates a string of problems as General McFee (Ron Lea) discovers the prototype robot soldier, who happens to be Albert, has escaped. The army presumes he has been stolen. Mae's father tries everything he can to convince General McFee the prototype soldier will be brought back to the facility.
Later that day, Albert asks Mae to Homecoming. Feeling overwhelmed, she tries to explain to Albert that she doesn't feel like she deserves to be his girlfriend. Gabby and Mae talk privately. Gabby thinks the whole thing is getting out of hand and Albert is coming between them. When Albert sings a remix of "Love You like a Love Song" by Selena Gomez & the Scene on the ukulele, Mae joins in and agrees to go to the dance with him.
Back at Mae's house, Bart reveals to Gabby that he has discovered Albert's true identity....he's a robotic soldier that his father designed for the Pentagon. They are interrupted when Zephyr (Paulino Nunes), Weevil (Matthew G. Taylor), and Pox (Alex Karzis) of the international arms dealer group Black Sigma break into the house, trying to find the weapon. Gabby tries to warn Mae about it at the football game, without success. Albert is brought in to play in the game and helps the team stage a comeback. The United States Army soldiers led by General McFee arrive at the homecoming game following a power outage caused Zephyr which short circuits Albert's wiring. While the soldiers arrest Zephyr, Weevil, and Pox, the soldiers with General McGee and Dr. Hartley apprehend capture Mae and Gabby and bring them in.
General McFee and Dr. Hartley explain how they have captured Albert and that they must now forget he ever existed. Mae is upset at the fact that she'll never see him again, and not be able to attend homecoming with him. However, in a turn of events, Albert shows up at the venue having successfully evaded the army, who has been shadowing him all along. However, Mae's father tries to convince the army to hold off the capture until the homecoming dance is over, not wanting to ruin her night.
Nevaeh tries to ruin Mae's night but is dumped by Jaden in the process. But to Nevaeh's disappointment, Mae is crowned homecoming queen. However, it's revealed that the ballot box was stuffed by the army in order to trap Albert. Nevaeh interrupts Mae's speech and attempts to convince the audience that Albert is a robotic super soldier, but Jaden thwarts her by turning her warnings into compliments. The situation is successfully resolved and Gabby, along with Bart, talk to Jaden and find out that he originally intended to ask Mae to homecoming, but wasn't brave enough to do so. Gabby also realizes that she was wrong about him.
Gabby finds Mae backstage. Mae seems to be conflicted about being elected Homecoming queen. Gabby apologizes to Mae about telling her that Jaden was out of her league, telling her that her true intentions were to not lose her as a friend. She tells Mae that being popular "isn't really her thing," but that she supports Mae in whatever she wants to do. They part ways with Mae being more conflicted than ever. The Army also begins to plan their next move, planning to retrieve Albert as soon as he finishes his mission - kissing Mae at Homecoming. The Army, ironically enough, programs and designs the dance floor to be perfect for Mae (with lighting and props) due to her father's request to keep this night perfect until Albert is taken away.
Gabby sees one of the U.S. Army soldiers controlling the lights and realizes the Army is trying to capture Albert again. She watches hopelessly (as well as Jaden, who watches from the sidelines) as Mae dances with Albert and moves in to kiss him. However, Mae suddenly backs away and reveals that even though the moment is perfect, it doesn't feel right. Mae realizes she wants a relationship with a boy that's real, not fake or perfectly manipulated like Albert. Albert is impressed by her emotional depth. Albert and Mae hug and he points out that the army is here to take him back. He asks her to initiate his self-destruct, telling her that it is what he wants. Mae complies. Albert bids her goodbye and begins to pulsate with bright lights. Gabby and Mae (along with the guests) watch as Albert breaks out of the venue through the ceiling and is destroyed.
Bart smartly covers and thanks Principal Fragner (Richard McMillan) for the 'awesome special effects'. The party continues, and Jaden musters the courage to ask her out. She tells him she'll reply later. Mae and Gabby are excited that Jaden told Mae how he feels – but Mae says "no boy is going to get in the way of our friendship." However, it is revealed that Bart and Gabby are dating, and that Gabby has changed her mind about boys. Then the moon and northern lights appear. The general is whining – he lost his chance at a super soldier again."