Released: 24th July
Seen: 26th July
In 2018 Netflix released The Kissing Booth, a 2 hour long romcom that focussed around a girl named Elle Evans (Joey King) and her best friend Lee Flynn (Joel Courtney) who were born at the same time in the same hospital, a fact that is literally meaningless to the plot of the entire story. Lee has an older brother named Noah (Jacob Elordi) who is somewhat of a player with the high school girls and, naturally, Elle has a crush on him. However, due to a list of random rules that she and Lee came up with years ago, Elle isn’t allowed to follow that crush… except she does it anyway, lies to Lee about it, they get discovered and there’s a kissing booth at the end that brings everything to the light. It’s a very generic and very dumb movie that relies on the charm of it’s cast that carried it over towards being watchable. It was a monster hit for the platform and so, naturally, it got a sequel… because apparently that’s something we needed.
The Kissing Booth 2 picks up the year after the first movie. Noah is off at Harvard (because apparently the meathead who got into fights every 5 minutes and seemingly has no skills other than ‘abs’ is Harvard material) which means he and Elle are trying to make a long distance relationship work. Meanwhile there’s another big fundraiser this year and Elle and Lee have decided to do another kissing booth, partially because it worked so well last year and partially because when you name your franchise after a carnival attraction it would be stupid to leave that attraction out of the movie. Meanwhile Lee and his girlfriend Rachel (Meganne Young) are trying to make their relationship work but Lee spends so much time with Elle that it’s putting a strain on the relationship that must be sorted out. MEANWHILE there’s a new student at the school, the superhot Marco Peña (Taylor Perez ) who is there to be conventionally attractive and also good at the game Dance Dance Revolution which is important because MEANWHILE there’s a big Dance Dance Revolution competition with a prize pool of 50K and Elle and Marco enter it so that Elle will have enough money to pay for college (crap, I forgot about the college plot) and MEANWHILE I do not give a damn about anything that’s going on because it’s so overwhelming and poorly constructed that I just want to tune it out.
This movie is so overloaded with plots that it’s honestly a chore to sit through. There’s no reason this story needs two hours of film, none whatsoever. The problem is that all of the plotlines are so interwoven that untangling this mess is too much work for them to do so they just throw it all in. Everything is so bloated that the only way to make it manageable is a page one rewrite to hack out a few of the excess plots and scenes. The film really didn’t need a 2 minute long sequence where Elle is shown a video of Marco working out (a video shot almost like a softcore solo porno) and accidentally hits a button to turn on the school speaker system which means her thirsty comments are blasted over the school speaker system without her knowing about it. It didn’t need the entire subplot about Lee faking an injury in order to get Elle a better dance partner (who also happens to be the sexy new guy she thirsted over earlier). Most of the other subplots could’ve seriously been hacked down, maybe they could’ve lost a few montages on the way, just a lot of editing needed to be done to make this manageable.
Even if they got it down to manageable though, they have to contend with the fact that none of the characters are either interesting or memorable. They’re the same cliché characters we’ve seen in so many of these young adult romcoms who are either super perfect sexy gods who we all aspire to be, or awkward lovable dorks who fall over at the drop of a hat. Hell, even the little bit of gay representation in the film feels almost tacked on because it’s 2020 and the audience this film is aimed at expects it. Don’t get me wrong, yay LGBT representation, huzzah for the bare minimum but I couldn’t tell you the names of the two gay characters they have the narrative stop dead to focus on. I only know the main characters’ names because I have the Wikipedia page opened and I happen to share a first name with one of them, so I can figure the others out by a process of elimination.
There’s nothing here to grab onto, even though they’re trying to throw everything at the audience in hopes that something will land but none of it does. It’s even more toothless than the original one was because at least the original had some style, some goals to achieve. “Will I be able to not jump on another boy at school while my boyfriend starts college” is not a compelling plot and never has been. It’s a cheap excuse to explain why a certain actor is in much less of the film (possibly because they’re busy working on the much better property Euphoria) and never feels like it’s anything more than that. This film basically doesn’t need to exist and probably wouldn’t if the last film hadn’t been an inexplicable hit.
The Kissing Booth 2 isn’t good, it barely hits watchable but it’s also not really memorable enough to just be outright bad. It’s a film that only really matters if you were truly desperate to know what happened next for the characters from the first movie and hadn’t guessed “The standard long distance relationship bullshit that happens in every movie like this”. Throw this on the pile of romantic comedies that Netflix is churning out that only work if you’re already a fan of the actors and don’t care about the quality of the film they’re in.