This Entire Two-Hour Exercise Has Been Rendered Moot: Our Review of ‘The Kissing Booth 2’ on Netflix

Posted in Movies, Netflix, What's Streaming? by - July 28, 2020
This Entire Two-Hour Exercise Has Been Rendered Moot: Our Review of ‘The Kissing Booth 2’ on Netflix

Elle Evans (Joey King) is back, baby! So too is most of the colourful gang like best friend Lee (Joel Courtney), his belle Rachel (Meganne Young), and fan favourite background character Tuppen (Joshua Daniel Eady). The Kissing Booth is open business…again. I think it’s safe to say that in a couple of weeks Netflix will trot out Ted Sarandos to make the unfounded claim that this is the biggest hit of the summer, so eat your heart out Christopher Nolan!

Also returning is director Vince Marcello, whose follow-up to the first film promises double the romance, double the heartbreak, and double the friendship rules! It’s clear that someone at Netflix has a sadistic touch, because how else do you explain that this thing clocks in a gob smacking 130 minutes. At least John Hughes had the wherewithal to fit Sixteen Candles into a taut hour and a half.

Sort of, but not really returning is Jacob Elordi as smoldering, rage-filled bad boy turned soft cuddly Harvard undergrad Noah Flynn. A quick catch-up for those who didn’t see the glorious first film (or for those who conveniently excoriated it from their brains): at the end of The Kissing Booth, Elle and Noah admitted they loved each other and rode off into the sunset on his motorbike. Noah, however, was college bound, while Elle still needed to complete her senior year.

The set-up for Kissing Booth 2 is that distance is really hard. It’s especially hard when you’re stuck inside a rom-com that necessitates drama to fill its incredibly bloated run-time, and it’s even more difficult when you’re both surrounded by new hot people. At Harvard, Noah makes fast friends with the globe-trotting Chole (Maisie Richardson-Sellers), who is as the film likes to ensure we never forget “supermodel gorgeous.” Replacing Noah as the hunk of generic California prep school (Pacific Coast Academy is rolling in its grave) is new kid on the block Marcos Peña (Taylor Zakhar Perez) who frequently teases Elle, which is rom-com code for he’s very into her. Will the pair manage to solve the hurdles of long-distance dating, and where will Elle decide on college? Stick around to find out the answers to these questions and more.

If there is a chief difference I can pinpoint between Kissing Booths 1 and 2, it’s a maturity of the film’s thematic overtones. It’s often forgotten that author Beth Reekles penned the first Kissing Booth novel for Wattpad in 2011, at the age of just sixteen. I have not had the pleasure of reading Reekles’ first novel, but I’m willing to bet that the novel she wrote for Kissing Booth 2 (which was published just this January) is the work of a far stronger author. Occasionally, it shows here. There’s strangely a weight to Kissing Booth 2, which I cannot say I expected in any capacity. In particular, Elle’s struggles with long-distance dating feel somewhat painful. Whereas The Kissing Booth is purely trite, this sequel has moments that feel kind of adult.

Still, it wouldn’t be a Kissing Booth 2 without plenty of trite. For as much as there is a more mature outlook to this film, it’s still chalked full of cringe-worth moments. Again, having not read either of Reekles’ novels, I cannot determine if this is a fault of the original source material or that something was lost in translation. There’s one specific line in particular which I refuse to spoil, simply because it needs to be experienced first-hand to be believed. Let’s just say this, this one specific line is a contender for the most bafflingly ridiculous sentence uttered by a teenage character in a piece of media since that time hot Archie on Riverdale informed a drug dealer in prison that his real problem is that he’s never experienced the “epic highs and lows of High School Football.”

One scene I do feel confident in using as an example occurs very early on in the film. Elle is provided with footage of Marco’s smokin’ hot bod, which conveniently looks like a BowFlex commercial from the early 2000s. Elle, who keep in mind we’ve never once seen gush about another person’s body in really any capacity, proceeds to describe every inch of this poor boy’s body with various metaphors such as “is this a tray of ice cubes, or a six pack.” Of course, due to sheer dumb luck these observations wind-up being broadcast to the whole school. You hate to see it.

Just like the first film, Kissing Booth 2 opens with an exposition dump montage. Elle informs us of how her summer consisted of long walks on the beach with her boyfriend, and that his absence has left her quite blue. This montage concludes with Elle sitting in front of the Hollywood sign, a special space of her’s and Noah’s. I’ve rolled through some real uncanny valleys before in the past, such as all of Ang Lee’s Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk. Thus, I feel very confident in my assertions that this one specific shot of Joey King in front of the Hollywood sign is possibly the least convincing shot in the history of cinema.

The greatest tragedy of Kissing Booth 2 though is it’s much too long, and drags far too much. This is a point that need to be belabored. Whomever is the Netflix executive that green-lit a two-hour plus Kissing Booth sequel needs to stand trial for their crimes. This film just has so much stuff crammed into its gills. There are multiple climaxes, none of which resolve anything, rendering this entire two-hour ordeal moot. Kissing Booth 2 exists solely to pave the way for the inevitable Kissing Booth 3, as evidenced by the massive bittersweet cliff-hanger this film finishes on.

Yet, for all of these gripes, you know what you’re getting into when you put on Kissing Booth 2. Despite there occasionally being some weight to this go-round, very little has changed between iterations of this franchise. If The Kissing Booth aggravated you to know end, I can assure you this new one will do little assuage those grievances. If you’re like me, then you’re already eagerly counting down the days to the multi-part Kissing Booth 3.

  • Release Date: 7/28/2020
This post was written by
Thomas Wishloff is currently an MA student at York University. He is new to the Toronto Film Scene, but has periodically written and podcasted for several now defunct ventures, and has probably commented on a forum with you at some point. The ex-Edmontonian has been known to enjoy a good board game, and claims to know the secret to the best popcorn in the world.
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