Subpar acting, shoddy pacing, and an uninventive, overstuffed script make The Kissing Booth 2 grueling to sit through despite a few standout performances.
After striking gold with Da 5 Bloods and The Old Guard, Netflix was due for a dud, and the tide must’ve finally turned because The Kissing Booth 2 undoubtedly fills that spot. Although the first installment didn’t exactly leave us with high hopes going into the sequel, The Kissing Booth 2 somehow manages to be equally as bad, if not worse, than its predecessor.
When it comes to The Kissing Booth 2, the list of what we didn’t like exponentially outnumbers what we did, but taking the cake for the most egregious (of many, many egregious) sins is the fact that the movie clocks in at a whopping two hours and eleven minutes. Most romantic comedies have the self-awareness and understanding not to sit at anything too far north of an hour and a half — and they’re right for doing so because there’s hardly enough substance in a typical film of that genre to justify anything more.
However, The Kissing Booth 2 seemingly has no qualms whatsoever when it comes to runtime, instead opting for a length which will have even the most diehard fans checking their phones far before the film is over. We have no difficulty believing that The Kissing Booth 2 is adapted from a novel, because there’s no other reasonable explanation as to why the filmmakers attempted to cram so many plots into a single movie.
The film follows Elle (still played by Joey King) as she navigates her senior year of high school, attempting to juggle (and stay with us here) deciding if she wants to go to the same college as her best friend Lee, managing a long-distance relationship with Noah (for whom she is considering attending Harvard), entering a dance-dance revolution contest with new hottie Marco in an attempt to raise money for college (with whom she also ropes into working the kissing booth, and who she also may or may not have feelings for), figuring out if Noah is cheating on her with his new Harvard friend Chloe, trying to mend her relationship with Lee’s girlfriend Rachel, and helping closeted classmate Ollie find love.
Got all that? We didn’t think so. Instead of just finding one compelling narrative and sticking with it, The Kissing Booth 2 throws every possible plot at the wall in the hopes that something will stick. The sheer volume of plots being juggled, coupled with the runtime, means that by the time the film ended, we had already forgotten about the events of the first half of the film.
Although Taylor Zakhar Perez’s performance was one of the few highlights of the movie, his character Marco could’ve been cut from the film entirely and saved a good half an hour. The dance-dance revolution plot has no relevance whatsoever to the rest of the story, not to mention the fact that Elle turns down Marco in the end, rendering the film’s weak attempt at a love triangle fruitless.
Also oddly fruitless is the introduction of Chloe (Maisie Richardson-Sellers, who we know as Charlie/Amaya on DC’s Legends of Tomorrow) and the plot thread of Noah possibly cheating on Elle while he’s away at Harvard. The “my boyfriend and I have gone long-distance and oh no is he cheating on me with a hot college girl” has been done to death, but it’s especially asinine here because, by our accounts, Chloe would be a much better fit for Noah then Elle. She’s mature and level-headed, and unlike Elle, she doesn’t immediately question Noah’s loyalty to her at the first sign of trouble.
Although Joey King does her best (and at times, a little too much) to bring charm to Elle, the character herself is an unlikable hypocrite, and it’s difficult to want to root for her when every time a character brings up one of her flaws, they make a good point. Also incredibly unlikable (somehow more so than Elle) is her best friend Lee. The two of them combined are a dread to watch onscreen, and Lee’s side plot involving his struggling relationship with his girlfriend Rachel is another element that could have easily gotten the chop without impacting the film whatsoever.
On the directorial side, The Kissing Booth 2 is full of jarring zooms and gratuitous slow-motion montages — staples of the genre, sure, but not doing much to help improve our opinion of director Vince Marcello.
Although Taylor Zakhar Perez and Maisie Richardson-Sellers are small saving graces, The Kissing Booth 2 is a bloated, unfunny mess of a film that we ardently urge you to skip when you’re looking for the next date-night flick.
What did you think of The Kissing Booth 2? What’s your favorite romantic comedy? Sound off in the comments below.