The Kissing Booth 2 is better than its predecessor. Not much better, but improved just enough to make me separate “in” from “sufferable” and resist the temptation to once again compare this franchise to a hazardous heap of incinerated refuse. It’s a step up from .
It’s not great; hell, it’s not even good. But it’s not actively harmful, and at Los Angeles Country Day, that’s progress.
Streaming today, the sequel to Netflix’s inexplicable 2018 hit clocks in at two hours and 12 minutes. That’s a nearly half-hour increase from the original teen romcom, one I was certain would make visiting Elle Evans (Joey King) and her gaggle of noxious SoCal nimrods even more excruciating this go-round.
And while, yes, this string of montages Netflix is calling a movie is far too long — truly, this may be the only project in history to use “Build Me Up Buttercup” as a method of prolonging torture — it’s not nearly as exhausting or toxic as its predecessor. It’s not great. Hell, it’s not even good. But it’s not actively harmful, misogynistic, or problematic, and at Los Angeles Country Day, that’s what we like to call progress.
Picking up immediately following the events of the first film, The Kissing Booth 2 sees Elle and bad boy Noah Flynn (Jacob Elordi) take on a long-distance relationship as Noah begins his freshman year at Harvard and Elle finishes up her senior year in Los Angeles. The franchise’s starring couple spends most of their sequel screentime navigating the complications of dating from afar and crossing the emotional gap between teenagedom and undergrad. That means we get far fewer scenes of the dysfunctional duo fighting IRL and far more of them sending each other passive aggressive texts. Gone are the days of slip-n-slides, beer pong, and demands to “GET IN THE CAR!” Here are the days of jealousy, missed calls, and really sad glances out windows. (Oh yeah, this relationship is still a mess. It’s just less overtly terrifying.)
I felt every second of the increased runtime.
For folks who found the pair compelling the first time around, the widening gulf between Noah and Elle could be a bit of a bummer. Luckily, Elle’s quirky classmates and best friend Lee (Joel Courtney) return to spice things up with the help of newcomers Marco (Taylor Zakhar Perez) and Chloe (Maisie Richardson-Sellers). Dramatic subplots, involving an intercom mishap, an America’s Got Talent-level dance competition, a botched Halloween costume, and more give Elle plenty to contend with while Noah is away. Plus, Molly Ringwald returns for another “Remember the ’80s?” bit part; background character Ollie (Judd Krok) gets an arc dedicated to bucking heteronormative constructs that doesn’t make a lot of tonal sense but is nice; and Lee and Elle host the literal kissing booth for the school fundraiser again because if they didn’t, what would the movie even be called?
If that sounds like a lot, that’s because it is. In keeping with The Kissing Booth‘s tradition of virtually structureless world-building, this sequel makes limited narrative sense. It plays more like a supercut of things that happened during a season of television than events in a single story. Getting invested in any part of this saga was beyond my capacity as a viewer, and as a result, I felt every second of the increased runtime. Watching Elle endlessly draft college essays was particularly grating.
Still, with a sunny setting, fun soundtrack (“Good Vibrations,” “What I Like About You,” etc.), and notable lack of close-ups of underaged girls dancing in their underwear for drunk boys, The Kissing Booth 2 is a massive improvement on the original. Whether that’s because Netflix learned its lesson and did some rewriting or because the books The Kissing Booth is based on take their own upward turn, I can’t say. (I haven’t read Beth Reekles’ YA series, and reader, I never will.)
Either way, it’s less creepy, less toxic, and all around more enjoyable. That’s not to say I enjoyed it. It’s objectively bad, and I had a bad time. But you could theoretically turn this movie on in an ironic “so-terrible-it’s-good” way without fear of looking up to see something genuinely alarming. So yeah. Nice job, Netflix. You nailed it.
The Kissing Booth 2 is now streaming on Netflix.
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