In spite of widespread negative reviews of the original May 2018 film, Netflix’s “The Kissing Booth” is back. Thanks to the first film’s commercial success, though, writer and director Vince Marcello’s “The Kissing Booth 2” enters with more kissing booths, more teen-fueled drama, more subpar writing and more predictable plotlines.
Based on the book “The Kissing Booth 2: Going the Distance” by Beth Reekles, Netflix’s “The Kissing Booth 2” plays out much like its predecessor. Although the characters in the film are more likable, the writing and plot leave much to be desired and altogether miss the mark.
The film picks up only a few months after the first left off. After a whirlwind summer during which Elle (Joey King) and her boyfriend, Noah (Jacob Elordi), were inseparable, Noah begins his first year at Harvard University while Elle begins her senior year of high school back home in Los Angeles. While the long-distance relationship is challenging, Elle thankfully has her best friend, Lee (Joel Courtney), at her side, who is also exploring a relationship of his own with Rachel (Meganne Young).
Elle and Noah quickly develop their share of problems, especially when Elle notices Noah’s friend and basically supermodel Chloe (Maisie Richardson-Sellers) during a FaceTime call. Chloe’s presence, both in Noah’s life and on his Instagram profile, causes Elle to worry despite Noah’s insistence that nothing is going on. Of course, Elle is not perfect either and runs into her fair share of obstacles as a senior in high school. After an embarrassing incident with her handsome new classmate, Marco (Taylor Zakhar Perez), the two start becoming friends, yet their drawn-out gazes seem to suggest something more.
The long-distance relationship is complicated further by Elle’s college application process. Before dating Noah, Elle had her eyes set on University of California, Berkeley, the school Elle and Lee decided they would both attend. However, after Noah proposes that Elle apply to schools in Boston to be nearer to him, Elle is forced to juggle her friendship with Lee and her fluctuating relationship with Noah to determine her priorities.
The movie checks every box of a typical teen romance, especially the competitive nature of friendships and relationships and the woes that come with that tension. The way the simple plotline spirals out into excessive subplots with one-dimensional supporting characters is probably the film’s greatest flaw.
Marcello and co-writer Jay Arnold include so many different storylines that viewers end up feeling no attachment to any particular one. As the plot bites off more than it can chew, some of the many storylines feel forced and woefully underdeveloped. One minor subplot of a token gay character struggling to come out, an important subject matter, only receives ten minutes of screen time.
Even the main plotline is less developed as there are three different climaxes, each representing a separate problem Elle experiences during the movie. Too much happens over the 130-minute duration, and yet, none of it is special or memorable.
Even for those who persevere through the two hours, the writing is simple enough that the viewer can predict the ending within the first ten minutes of the film. The writing is a string of played-out cliches, and the movie seems like every other teen romance film made before, only with different actors. The running through the airport, the grand profession of love — it’s all there and never for a good reason.
The movie somewhat redeems itself with King’s endearing acting as the quirky, fun girl who cares about the people she loves. Her relationship with each character is genuine, and the viewer still roots for her, even amid the ridiculous plotlines. Likewise, the acting across the board excels, each actor making the most of the rather weak script they have been provided. While each character in the first film came off as annoying or irrational, they undergo enough character development in the sequel that viewers are interested in how their lives eventually end up.
Despite the weak and excessive storylines in “The Kissing Booth 2,” viewers can expect to see more of Elle, Noah and Lee, since King announced a forthcoming third installment on her Instagram.
While it’s a threequel nobody asked for, it’s at least a testament to the fact that Elle can’t keep herself from getting caught up in trouble, however unengaging that trouble may be.