The Kissing Booth 2
Director: Vince Marcello
Cast: Joey King, Jacob Elordi, Joel Courtney, Taylor Zakhar Perez
Lara Jean may have been able to resist the charms of a second hot boy in her life but Elle Evans may not be made of such stern stuff. The Kissing Booth 2 presents a similar dilemma to its nerdy American high schooler lead, as earlier this year’s To All The Boys: PS I Love You—falling for another unearthly cute guy when you already have an unearthly cute guy in your arms. However, The Kissing Booth 2 is not as stylish or even half as heartfelt, making it just a quarter as enjoyable.
Watch the trailer for The Kissing Booth 2:
Set in the fantastical, faraway land of Netflix high school romcoms where one regularly gets the option to choose between two perfect specimens of human males, The Kissing Booth 2 is unable to find a true calling, purpose or justification for a sequel. It sits at a bloated runtime of 130 minutes and to while it away, it employs any and every conflict possible. There’re jealous girlfriends, annoying best friends, lying boys, seduced girls, fear of the future, a dance competition, adultery, self doubt, the uncaring way of life, forbidden love, and the belief in the existence of soulmates. But much like that inedible broth, too many conflicts also spoil what could have been a slick high school comedy.
This time, Elle (Joey King) must navigate life through senior year at her sunny California school after her boyfriend Noah (Jacob Elordi) leaves for Harvard. They decide to give long distance relationship a chance, a promise that is not helped by the arrival of a dashing new admission at school, Marco (Taylor Zakhar Perez). With his curls, sweaty gym videos and guitar, he soon makes long distance celibacy a tough task for Elle, who is already turned into the doubting girlfriend, jealous of Noah’s gorgeous new friend at college, Chloe (Maisie Richardson).
Any other high school movie would have perhaps been content with so much on their plate but not this one. This love-quadrangle is only in addition to the conflict brewing between Elle, her best friend Lee (Joel Courtney) and his frankly frustrated girlfriend Rachel. While Elle and Lee’s friendship, their Dance Dance Revolution sessions and the easy, electric chemistry between Joey and Joel make for some of the best things about the film, Rachel is not so cool with Elle third-wheeling them all the time. If the break-ups and the proclamations of the core group were too much to keep track of, this only adds to the chaos.
Even with constant voice-overs about her feelings and learnings—Elle is writing her letters of applications to various colleges throughout the film—it still gets confusing to keep up with her many musings and motivations. The film is incredibly stretched. A scene in the beginning, about a ‘comedic’ disaster with the school announcement system, drags on for a torturous minute. There is very little humour about it and even less so when it plays out with that chaotic, Disney Channel energy.
The jealous girlfriend plot also takes multiple revisits to finally establish the excuse to dump the past and move on to a guitar-strumming, curly haired future. And frankly, Joey and Jacob’s negligible amount of scenes together—the secret, forbidden romance from the first part replaced by Skype calls and unread texts—makes it hard to root for ‘Elno’ anyway.
But The Kissing Booth 2 is not without its moments of genuine goodness. Taylor’s charming powers can be felt through your screens even as he woos Elle on the DDM machine or plays her a sweet song at the beach, talking about how he would treat her right. Their electric scenes make you second guess the validity of Elle and Noah’s long confessions of love and maybe, just this once, you’d have let the heroine break up with Colin Firth for Hugh Grant.
A third love story—about a boy finding the courage to come out to his school, confess his love for a genius dork—also brings sweet respite from Elle and her many troubles. The ending of the film, even though rushed, feels almost acceptable just for the sake of these two.
The Kissing Booth 2 ( Marcos Cruz/Netflix )
Joey is still a good fit for Elle. She can be convincingly excited about Halloween costumes and also heartbroken over a cheating boyfriend. Jacob, however, appeared to have checked out of that Zoom call a while ago.
With its bubblegum filters, school kids in convertibles on a sunny street and mediocre essays being deemed fit for a Harvard acceptance letter, there is much that separates The Kissing Booth 2 from reality. Which is why it is quite the right specimen of the high school romantic comedy section of Netflix.
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