The Kissing Booth 2 review

Netflix hasn’t been afraid to award popular, trending films sequels in a timely manner and The Kissing Booth 2 returns with more of the teen angst, light drama and miscommunication that made the first film so endearing. While not as good as the original, the sequel hits all the right steps to leave fans of the franchise engaged and eagerly awaiting the next installment.

Fair word of warning, Director/co-writer Vince Marcello and co-writer Jay S. Arnold assume viewers have watched The Kissing Booth enough times to remember even the slightest call back so you might want to re-watch the first film to refresh on key details.

Elle (Joey King) is trying a mature approach to her senior year while her boyfriend, Noah (Jacob Elordi), is away at Harvard. At least Elle can still rely on her best friend and Noah’s brother, Lee (Joel Courtney), as he navigates — badly — a new relationship with Rachel (Meganne Young).

Lee hasn’t adjusted well to having a girlfriend and setting up some boundaries with the best friend he’s known since birth. Elle isn’t helping matters out much either, basically expecting Rachel to fall in line with the status quo of her friendship with Lee.

Elle is concerned when she notices that one of Noah’s friends is the impossibly gorgeous and charming Chloe (Maisie Richardson-Sellers, DC’s Legends of Tomorrow). As the case with these teen dramas, Elle has to fight back her jealousy and immediately jumping to the conclusion that Noah is cheating on her with Chloe. For the sake of teen drama we’re asked to play along, but it felt more than a little weird that Elle never considered Noah just found a female best friend like she had with Lee.

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When Noah suggests Elle attend a school in Boston so they can avoid the long distance thing, she’s all set if only she can afford it. Fortunately there’s a massive Dance Dance revolution competition that would allow her to pay for presumably one (?) two (?) semesters.

Without diving too deep into YouTube searching for DDR masters, the physics of a dance competition with those quarter gobblers seems crazy. There’s barely enough time to pause let alone work out a complex dance routine as this video shows:

With her relationship in question (in her mind), Elle starts seeing the latest school hunk Marco (Taylor Zakhar Perez) in a different light. Beyond the physical attraction, which yes accounts for a lot at the high school level, it was hard to envision Elle and Marco together.

Their chemistry always felt like more a function of creating a rival for Noah in a Twilight kind of Team Jacob/Team Edward dynamic.  While Noah was afforded the luxury of actual character development, Marco is largely just a suave blank slate with rock hard abs. We never even get any backstory in terms of why he’s so in to dancing video games so much.

Still, it’s hard to gripe but so much about a film where the lead making questionable and outright bad choices is a teenager. King is the glue that holds the film together. Even when Elle is making dumb decisions, King dives in to Elle’s insecurities and idealistic thinking that makes you root for Elle to get it together.

There’s a gay subplot as one of Elle’s friends, Ollie (Judd Krok), is worried about confessing his feelings to his crush. Ollie had no need to worry. These teen dramas always play out like the writers want a pat on the back for including gay or lesbian characters while sidestepping legitimate reasons for coming out. It’s not always met with raucous applause and cheers and is so shallow that it never feels worth the effort.

Like a lot of TV shows/movies in the 80s and 90s it’s always convenient that the two black characters end up together and it feels that way with these lighter teen dramas. Also, it would be a welcome surprise to have more black, Asian or Latino (beyond Marco) guys with names and speaking roles in the KB universe.

The kissing booth itself feels somewhat tacked on as more of an obligation because duh, the film is called The Kissing Booth 2 and we’ve got to feature some sweet, sweet blindfold tonsil hockey. Cynicism aside, it does result in one of the film’s genuinely sweeter moments. And it’s always entertaining watching the school’s sorta mean girls playing the most diligent relationship facilitators.

Naturally everything works out perfectly in the end…or does it? A third installment has already been filmed and set for a 2021 release so we can expect another round of romantic hi-jinks and the totally random and not at all contrived appearance of the kissing booth. At least that’s one film we can count on actually seeing next year.

Rating: 3.5 out of 10

Photo Credit: Netflix

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