When it premiered in May 2018, The Kissing Booth apparently became a huge hit. A month later, Netflix‘s Chief Content Officer Ted Sarandos called it “one of the most-watched movies in the country, and maybe in the world”. However, this old-fashioned teen romcom based on a novel by Welsh teenager Beth Reekles was also criticised for being sexist, regressive and laden with clichés. Put it this way: the plot really kicks into gear when LA teenager Elle (Slender Man’s Joey King) wears a tiny skirt to school, gets groped by an older student, then has her honour “protected” by Noah (Jacob Elordi), the dreamboat she has a crush on. It’s surely no spoiler to confirm that Elle and Noah end up together two hours later.
Directed and co-written by Vince Marcello, who also helmed the first film, this completely inevitable but equally needless sequel at least gives Elle some more agency. With Noah now studying at college 3,000 miles away – he got into Harvard, obviously – she finds herself conflicted about her future. Should she apply to the local school that she and “bestie” Lee (Super 8’s Joel Courtney) have always dreamed of attending together, or aim higher and try for Harvard so she can be with Noah? To help pay for the more prestigious college, she partners with Marco (Taylor Perez), her high school’s newest student and a certified “snack”, for a super-competitive dance mat challenge with a $50,000 prize.
As she weighs her decision, she begins to suspect that Noah is cheating on her with Harvard classmate Chloe (Legends of Tomorrow’s Maisie Richardson-Sellers), who’s more sophisticated than Elle and has the crisp British accent to prove it. There’s never any real tension to her dilemma, though, because none of these two-dimensional characters is allowed to behave with anything more than mild temporary selfishness. There’s no firm resolution at the end, either, presumably because The Kissing Booth 3 is very much on the cards.
Though The Kissing Booth 2 dials down some of the original’s overt sexism, it clings rigidly to the rest of the formula – which means loads of predictable plot developments, the odd stilted comedy moment, and a strangely anachronistic soundtrack peppered with ’60s hits like ‘Build Me Up Buttercup’. This is a film so witless that it casts The Breakfast Club legend Molly Ringwald as a parent – a neat nod to teen comedies past, at least on paper – then gives her nothing to do. The result is as sickly-sweet and utterly unnatural as a McDonald’s milkshake – and a vanilla one at that.
- Director: Vince Marcello
- Starring: Joey King, Jacob Elordi, Joel Courtney
- Release date: July 24 (Netflix)