Review by Camden Ferrell
The Kissing Booth 2 is the sequel to the successful albeit offensively problematic Netflix film The Kissing Booth. With Vince Marcello returning to direct, this sequel is a significant improvement over its predecessor, but it is still an extremely flawed film that once again fails to craft a meaningful story or characters.
In this film, Elle is now high school senior who must juggle the demands of her life with her long-distance relationship with her boyfriend. This film doesn’t focus as much on the titular booth, and it instead opts to explore multiple plot lines including Elle’s best friend and a new handsome student at school. This premise is once again logically flawed, but beyond that, it’s a cliché set up that is half-baked at best.
To be fair, the writing is still quite abysmal, but Marcello and Jay S. Arnold’s script avoids many of the problematic moments of the first. It doesn’t sexualize Elle nearly as much, and it doesn’t have a creepy aura like the first one that merely writes-off moments of sexual harassment and misogyny. However, even though its slow progress, there are plenty of ways for the script to be better. The dialogue is stale and predictable, and it features all of the lazy tricks and plot devices that have been used countless times before.
As the lead, Joey King still gives it her all even if it comes off as a bit over the top. I imagine that this is just the style of the movie, but it isn’t always executed very well. The rest of the cast is quite forgettable and supporting actors like Jacob Elordi feel like they’re completely phoning in their roles. The addition of actors like Taylor Zakhar Perez are welcome, but they still can’t stand out from the rest of the cast in any meaningful way.
After the commercial success of the first film, it seems there wasn’t a lot of effort put into making this a more virtuous feature. It still possesses the same teen comedy tropes and antics that you would expect, and it still features some heinous interactions and pandering that feel quite cheap even for a teen movie. Even its improvements fail to succeed on its own, and it merely makes the film look better only when being compared to its predecessor.
While the film definitely does a better job at not explicitly and disgustingly objectifying its female characters, it still doesn’t develop them. There is no meaningful growth; it’s all superficial, and every female character is only presented through their relationships to the male characters. To say it’s misogynistic like the first film might be a stretch, but the film has no interest in properly telling stories from the woman’s perspective, and this leads the film to becoming forgettable at best.
The movie also bites off way more than it can chew. There are quite a few separate plot lines to the point where the actual kissing booth is hardly mentioned throughout. Some of these plot lines seem like overkill and really lazy and forced inclusion and diversity. This directly contributes to the film’s bloated runtime, and it never really feels earned at all. Even though some of these moments have some mildly entertaining crescendos, it doesn’t make up for a lot of wasted time.
The Kissing Booth 2 may be an improvement, but it is still a movie that will appeal to a very specific demographic and not much else. King tries her best as a leading actress, but it doesn’t make up for a weak premise, lazy writing, and a cast that has already outgrown this series.
The Kissing Booth 2 is now streaming on Netflix.