The Kissing Booth 2 (2020)

“Last year’s gonna be hard to top.”

More in common with a lengthy stint in detention than it ever has with a young love romantic comedy, The Kissing Booth 2 falls into all of the familiar traps destined for most follow-up films, and it strangely plants them there in the first place. The movie doubles down on everything: more characters, more locations, more clichés and tropes, and it’ll have you watching the hands of the clock waiting for this journey to finally end. The first entry wasn’t very good but I didn’t hate it either, yet the same can’t be said for this sad, sloppy sequel. This a fatty, salty, fast food streaming feature. It weighs on you in all of the wrong ways.

Just as the first film did, The Kissing Booth 2 has its protagonist Elle (Joey King, doing her best to save a sinking ship) play catch-up for the audience, hurriedly telling and showing us what we need to know to get up to speed in the lives of privileged youths. This clumsy storytelling device is like an early and angsty Taylor Swift song without any of the poetry or artistry, making for a recap that’s both boring and benign. Elle is now a senior, her older boyfriend Noah (Jacob Elordi) seems homesick at Harvard while befriending the beautiful Chloe (Maisie Richardson-Sellers), and Lee (Joel Courtney) struggles to split time between his bestie Elle and his patient girlfriend Rachel (Meganne Young). There’s also the matter of getting the hottest in school to participate in the Spring carnival’s kissing booth again. Like I said…boring and benign.

A few aspects are surprising, like a minor B-story queer relationship reminiscent of Love, Simon, and Elle’s flirtation with the new guy in town named Marco (Taylor Zakhar Perez) brings some impassioned heat to a romantic comedy that’s otherwise frozen solid and full of those hearty, fake belly laughs you can spot a mile away. It’s not enough to thaw things out though, and the fact that so much of the film is fatuous filler doesn’t help its cause either. Much like Elle, who’s mulling her college options come next Fall, The Kissing Booth 2 has no idea where it should go, so it applies everywhere and slaps the whole thing together with lazy writing and careless editing. Some sequences make absolutely no sense.

Most perplexing of all is how the actual kissing booth plays such an unimportant role in a film with this title, and how – I kid you not – the movie is actually about Elle trying to win a DDR inspired competition with a $50,000 purse for first place. Yes, you read that correctly. It’s her only way of affording college, even though she attends a fancy private school in California and lives in the kind of home most people only visit in their dreams. Director Vince Marcello has made two problematic, deeply dated, unknowingly offensive movies, neither of which would be released in theaters anymore for more than a few reasons. It’s low-brow, cheaply made, shot from an obviously exploitative male gaze, and features the kind of tacky score and glaring cinematography normally relegated to daytime soap operas. They’ve already finished the final film in this trilogy, and for their own sake, I hope they took the quote below to heart.

“You should know that we’re less interested in meeting the person you think we want you to be, and far more interested in getting to know the person you really are.”

Rating: 1 out of 5

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