Netflix is continuing its streak of teen romantic comedies. With the wild success of The Kissing Booth in 2018, it was obvious a sequel was in order for the Wattpad based movie. What’s a better way to top a romantic junior year with a wilder senior year?
The Kissing Booth 2 takes place during Elle Evans’ (played by Joey King) senior year of high school and it feels exactly like the last year of high school. Messy, convoluted and too many tasks to check off before the end of the year. The sequel picks off right where the first movie ended. Bad boy Noah Flynn (played by Euphoria’s Jacob Elordi) has gone east to Harvard, leaving Elle in California with Noah’s brother and her best friend Lee (played by Joel Courtney) to start their senior year of high school.
Right off the bat, the movie introduces a myriad of plotlines at a whiplash pace. Just like your high school homework, you forget about all of them until the last minute. There’s long distance troubles between Noah and Elle. There’s Elle’s college application woes. There’s Lee and his relationship with his girlfriend Rachel (played by Meganne Young), suffering under the blow of Elle’s incessant third-wheeling. There’s a wildly elaborate Dance Dance Revolution contest that comes with the promise of tuition money. Even with all that, there’s barely a kissing booth. The last third of the movie has the return of the infamous carnival that drove the first movie but only seems to be there to keep a loose tie to the title. It’s hard to follow, let alone care, about all of these plotlines and the movie can’t seem to decide which ones bear weight and which ones don’t. While The Kissing Booth 2’s tone is certainly comedy, what with its flashy graphics and Disney Channel-esque slapstick, it doesn’t strike enough of a balance between the serious and not-so-serious. When things come to a head, it’s hard to actually believe the gravity of the situation because of the movie’s inability to flesh out its characters and their troubles beyond the surface level.
Of course, it’s not a teen romantic comedy without a love triangle. But because of Kissing Booth 2’s ineptitude in deciding a proper plotline, secondary love interest Marco (played by Taylor Perez) falls off to the wayside. It’s a shame, as King and Perez have more of an energetic chemistry compared to King and Elordi. Marco is relegated to only popping up when Elle needs something other than Noah’s suspected infidelity to gripe about. It’s a love triangle that seems to only function for eye candy purposes, rather than an actual edge to Elle and Noah’s relationship.
It’s hard to root for Noah as Elle’s happily ever after when he takes such a backseat in this movie. For the first half of the movie, Noah only appears as Facetime calls in his pristine Harvard dorm, a la dark academia. His following scenes with Elle and company feel forced, like the script had to rush to throw him into the ring amidst Elle’s other troubles. Aside from the nostalgia of the couple’s journey in the first movie, Elle’s return to Noah doesn’t feel earned. There are no scenes that cement him as a good boyfriend, let alone a character to root for.
Despite its weird tonal faults, Joey King is a delight on screen. The script is a far cry from its more grounded Netflix counterparts like To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before, but King works with the script instead of against it. You can tell she’s having fun. It’s more than what can be said about Elordi, who seems reluctant to return to the movie after his success on HBO’s Euphoria.
Elle and her friends get their happy ending, complete with graduation tassels and a beachside sequence to Good Vibrations. It’s a short-lived celebration; Elle returns home to two acceptance letters from both Harvard and UC Berkeley. Once again, she must choose between her boyfriend and her best friend. While it’s understandable the film ends with a cliffhanger to tease at a third sequel, it does nothing to tie up the multitude of plots in the movie. Who knows? With The Kissing Booth 3 already in post production, maybe we’ll get all the answers we’re searching for. And hopefully a proper kissing booth plotline this time.