Friday, July 24, 2020

The Kissing Booth 2: Movie Review

More kissing booth: more of everything.
I was all prepared to hate this. Two-and-a-quarter hour sequels to mediocre teen rom coms don’t exist for good reasons. But it wasn’t all bad. The Kissing Booth 2 took a number of the same qualities to the first, added a few new characters (kept all the same important ones), and then attempted to improve on the common criticisms. Too much was squeezed into this one and the result is a slightly over-done teen flick. 2020

Directed by: Vince Marcello

Screenplay by: Vince Marcello, Jay S. Arnold
Based on the book written by Beth Reekles

Starring: Joey King, Jacob Elordi

Plot A has Elle (Joey King) and Noah (Jacob Elordi) struggling with their long-distance relationship. He’s at Harvard (it’s still not explained how he got in, but no matter now) and their communication skills are weak and trust issues run high. Plot B pits Elle with the new hot kid in school, Marco (Taylor Zakhar Perez), whose relationship starts flirtatious, then quickly turns antagonistic and then they enter a dance competition together.

Plots C, D, and E (and on and on, really) focus on Elle’s friendship with Lee, Lee’s relationship with Rachel, this year’s kissing booth and Elle’s applications to college. The audience will be surprised to find out that Elle is not rich and needs money for school. Watching the first one, the extreme wealth was almost nauseating and viewers complained about the lack of realism. The solution is to have Noah pay for flights (multiple) across the country and just tell us that Elle is somewhat poor. Yeah, doesn’t fly, but hey, Elle needs money for Harvard, and she and Lee find this flyer for a dance machine competition which pays $50k. That’s the typical teen comedy plot but doesn’t fit in with this money relatability that was trying to be established earlier.

A lot of the other issues are satisfactorily solved. The excessive male aggression in the first one is toned down, and no boys beat each other up – two threatened, but realized it wouldn’t solve anything (progress!). The overt sexualization of teen girl bodies also minimalized – no strip teases, and slightly more conservative dress, at least more realistic clothing. For the lack of inclusivity, the sequel features a gay romance storyline and the new characters are all minority casting. A part of that definitely feels like pandering, like they only did it because they were told too. But, then again, isn’t that a good thing? They clearly listened to people’s issues with the first movie and made attempts to improve it. I respect the filmmakers for that.

The romance this time around isn’t nearly as enjoyable as the original. Elle and Noah are supposedly in a committed relationship but Elle thinks he’s cheating, he says he not, but we don’t know if he’s lying and Elle just keeps asking over and over again. Elle and Noah’s chemistry is still there, but her chemistry with Marco is minimal. He just serves as a good-looking distraction from Noah.

The main reason the first one worked at all is Joey King’s adorable and unique screen presence to endear the audience to the character of Elle. Thankfully, that carries through to the sequel. Elle’s the same person, and I occasionally see some of myself in her. The attempts to make her funnier don’t work and we’re left with some forced humour; however, where it does improve is in the emotional maturity. I truly cared for Elle and Noah’s well-being, more than I did in the first.

There’s a lot in this movie, more than is necessary, but I surprisingly never felt the film drag. I am very apprehensive about The Kissing Booth 3 which they have set themselves up for, but 2 could have been worse.