When Elle Evans (Joey King), a pretty, late-bloomer who’s never-been-kissed, decides to run a kissing booth at her high school’s Spring Carnival, she unexpectedly finds herself locking lips with her secret crush- the ultimate bad boy, Noah Flynn (Jacob Elordi). Sparks fly, but there’s one little problem: Noah just happens to be the brother of her best friend, Lee, (Joel Courtney) and is absolutely off limits according to the rules of their friendship pact. Elle’s life is turned upside down when she realizes that she must ultimately make a choice: follow the rules or follow her heart.
Back when I was in high school a couple of years ago, so many of the girls in my classes couldn’t stop gushing about how much they loved The Kissing Booth. Seeing as how it was a Netflix original film, and how I use Netflix all the time, I was surprised by the fact that I had never heard of it until they started talking about it.
It was always that and To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before that got all of the attention in school. It was practically impossible for me to not hear at least one person talk about either one of those movies back when they were both released. Just this past year, I went ahead and watched To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before and was genuinely surprised by how much I enjoyed it. It’s a perfectly enjoyable cute romantic comedy filled with a great amount of heart and humor.
So, I decided that I would finally go ahead and give The Kissing Booth a go for two main reasons. For one, there is a sequel coming out on Netflix on July 24th, so to prepare myself for that, I figured I’d watch the first. And two, because so many people that I know couldn’t stop talking about it. I thought it had to be great, right? Wrong. Not only is this one of the worst comedy/coming-of-age films I have ever seen, but it is also one of the worst films of the entire decade.
One of the film’s biggest offenses happens early on. As soon as I took notice of the amount of extreme expository dialogue, I just had a terrible feeling that I was going to be in for a long, boring, and frustrating ride. Sadly, I was right. It’s truly shocking how much exposition this film has.
The opening scene has our lead protagonist Elle recapping the most important moments of her life in the blandest way possible. Instead of telling a story visually, she tells it with words. To add insult to injury, these “important” moments seem rather dull save for maybe a few.
Even still though, the opening five minutes alone are enough to make any viewer roll their eyes. It all feels like the screenwriter is talking down to the audience. It’s fairly obvious that this film is aimed towards a teenage demographic. Teenagers aren’t stupid. They can understand and appreciate films the same way adults do. A movie like this talks down to them in the most ridiculous ways possible.
Something else that was annoying that I noticed in the first act was how jarring the tonal shifts are. One minute, we will be watching Elle playing Dance Dance Revolution at the local arcade with her best friend Lee, and the next, we will see her putting flowers on her deceased mother’s grave. It’s a moment that comes so out of left field that it honestly made me drop my jaw a little, but in a bad way. I couldn’t believe what I was watching. There are so many moments like this that make you question how this movie even got past the first draft stage.
In addition, the film is absolutely riddled with some of the most painfully overused film tropes of all time. It’s extremely obvious where the film will eventually go right from the first act alone. There are absolutely no surprises in store anywhere in the movie and it follows the same tried-and-true formula that so many films in this genre use. While watching the film, I was sitting down praying that something truly unique or surprising would happen at least once, anywhere in the film, but that never happened.
Not to mention the fact also that the film really doesn’t have a good understanding of teenagers at all. For one, none of the teenagers in this movie actually look like teenagers. All of the main actors involved here are in their twenties and I couldn’t help but feel as though they looked incredibly out of place. So many of the things that they do and say are things that most teenagers would not do or say. It’s frustrating to watch a film that doesn’t even have a good understanding of its target audience.
Now, like I mentioned earlier. So many of the girls in my high school when this film was released couldn’t stop talking about it. It was brought up in too many conversations to count. One of the things that they liked the most about the movie was Elle’s love for the film’s “heartthrob” Noah. It genuinely shocks me because he is an extremely toxic character and it baffles me that any girl would want these two characters to end up together.
In one of the earlier scenes from the film, Elle gets sexually assaulted at school when one of the students comes up to her and smacks her behind. Noah sees this and tackles the student and seemingly takes care of the problem. But later on, they are both sent to the principals office and are put in detention. While in detention, Noah starts talking in a condescending manner to Elle and even tells her that “wearing a skirt like that is asking for it”. When I heard this, I truly didn’t want to watch anymore. It’s just as crazy when you realize that, even after this scene, Elle still desperately tries to date Noah, when he is obviously not that great of a guy.
The writing on display is seriously bad. I truly don’t understand how scenes like that were written and then these actors took a look at the script and wanted to be a part of this project. It doesn’t treat its women characters well at all and goes down one of the most predictable paths possible.
Is Joey King bad in the movie? No. Nobody in the film really delivers a bad performance per se, but they don’t do anything exceptional. Nothing about their performances make them “good” performances. They’re just performances in an awful movie. I get the feeling that a lot of these actors would be good in a much better and much more deserving movie, but this is most certainly not a good movie. The fact that there is going to be another one coming out next week is a dreadful thought. Here’s hoping it’s better, but I’m definitely not getting my hopes up.
The Kissing Booth is an extremely predictable, trope-filled mess of a movie with flat characters, a misunderstanding of its target audience, and an incredibly toxic relationship at its core.
Overall Grade: F
MPAA Rating: TV-14
Directed by: Vince Marcello
Distributed by: Netflix
Release Date: May 11, 2018
Running Time: 110 minutes