Elle Evans (Joey King) just had the most romantic summer of her life with her reformed bad-boy boyfriend Noah Flynn (Jacob Elordi). But now Noah is off to Harvard, and Elle heads back to high school for her senior year. She’ll have to juggle a long-distance relationship, getting into her dream college with her best friend Lee (Joel Courtney), and the complications brought on by a close friendship with a handsome, charismatic new classmate named Marco (Taylor Perez). When Noah grows close to a seemingly-perfect college girl (Maisie Richardson-Sellers), Elle will have to decide how much she trusts him and to whom her heart truly belongs.
Alita: Battle Angel, District 9, World War Z, and Zootopia – all of those are movies that people have been wanting to get sequels to for many years. Vince Marcello’s The Kissing Booth was definitely not one of them, yet, here we are in 2020 with a sequel to that film. A film that was so painfully bad, corny, and trope-filled that it was hard to sit through. Not only that, but it was a film that featured a toxic relationship and passed it off as okay. It seems as if a lot of people truly like the character of Noah, and I will never understand why. After being smacked on her behind at school, Noah tells our lead protagonist Elle that she was “asking for it” due to the way she dressed.
Yet at the end of that first film, spoiler alert, the two of them get together and I couldn’t help but feel completely put off by that. The way the screenplay handled its lead character Elle was extremely bad. There were so many things to complain about with that first film. The romance, the attempts at humor, the love drama. Thankfully, though, the running time wasn’t one of them. Even though the first film was only one-hundred and ten minutes, it felt much longer than that.
But The Kissing Booth 2‘s running time is one-hundred and thirty-one minutes and you can definitely feel it dragging along. In this film, we pick up right where we left off the first time around. Keeping in tradition with the previous installment, this movie also begins with our lead character Elle blandly narrating points of her life ever since the end of the first film. It’s frustrating because this opening is supposed to let us have a peek at what has happened in the life of our main character, but instead, it just comes across as a massive exposition dump scene and that’s exactly what it is. It feels like the screenwriters Vince Marcello and Jay Arnold had no idea how to visually tell this, so instead, they just threw a bunch of information at the audience in the first couple of minutes and hoped they liked it. I, for one, didn’t.
This sequel is so much similar to its predecessor that it’s not even funny. It plays out virtually the exact same which was equal parts confusing and annoying. There never comes a scene anywhere in the film where we get justification for this sequel even existing. They could have ended it all with the last one, but they decided to make another because they knew that a lot of teenagers were going to watch it and they would make money.
The formula for both movies feels the exact same and they each have no surprises up their sleeves. The story on display not only comes across as sappy and predictable, but tired and slow-paced. In the first thirty to forty minutes of the film, we just watch scenes of Elle playing Dance Dance Revolution at the arcade with her best friend Lee, Elle talking to Lee about how much she misses Noah, and scenes of her accidentally embarrassing herself at school. All of those things also happen in the first film too, by the way. I just don’t understand why the film needed to be as long as it is. It wouldn’t be a problem had the film used up every precious second of its running time and put it to good use. Using it to excellent flesh out its characters, give them reasons to care for their plight, and actually make the love triangle here entertaining enough to watch. But, instead, they spend nearly half of the film showing our characters just goofing around and making the love triangle extremely boring and cringe-inducing.
If I had to scrounge around my mind and come up with one thing about the film that genuinely didn’t bother me it would have to be Joey King. I want to make it crystal clear that I think she is a terrific actress. She has proven this in the past with the television series The Act, and her performance there garnered a ton of attention during awards season. It’s one of the reasons why I’m so surprised that she is still taking on roles like this.
To put it bluntly, this film just doesn’t deserve an actress of her caliber. It’s obvious to tell when watching the movie that she is an extremely talented actress. While trying my best to power through this cinematic bore, I couldn’t help but wish I was watching something else with her in it. Something a lot better.
Joey King and Joel Courtney actually have good chemistry with one another and they honestly feel like they are best friends in real life. I don’t know if they truly are, but if you told me that they were, I would believe you one-hundred percent. But at the end of the day, just because your two lead actors feel like they are having fun in a film doesn’t make the film as a whole good. All of these actors deserve to be working on better projects in the future, and one can only hope that’s what happens sometime soon. This movie fails on all accounts. It fails at being a sweet romance film, it fails at developing an interesting and memorable lead character, and it fails at doing the most important thing – telling a good story.
The Kissing Booth 2 is a tremendously predictable, cringe-inducing sequel with an incredibly slow pace, bland characters, and a central romance that feels tired.
Overall Grade: F
MPAA Rating: TV-14
Directed by: Vince Marcello
Distributed by: Netflix
Release Date: July 24, 2020
Running Time: 131 minutes