REVIEW: Oversaturated Writing is the Weakest Aspect of ‘The Kissing Booth 2’ (2020)

Rating: 3 out of 5.

While it is typically a good thing that Netflix allows for such creative independence, The Kissing Booth 2 is a prime example of a time where the streaming giant should have left a lot more on the cutting room floor.

The Kissing Booth 2, Netflix’s latest rom-com sequel, shockingly manages to hold up against the original The Kissing Booth (2018) and, in fact, it might be even better. After a summer of love, Elle Evans (Joey King) and Noah Flynn (Jacob Elordi) find themselves separated on either side of the continental U.S. as Noah leaves for his freshman year at Harvard University, while Elle stays behind in California for her last year of high school. A horde of familiar students reappear for the sequel, including Elle’s best friend and Noah’s young brother Lee (Joel Courtney) in addition to his girlfriend Rachel (Meganne Young). Newcomers Marco Peña (Taylor Perez) and Chloe (Maisie Richardson-Sellers) fit seamlessly into the original cast while causing most of the ensuing drama.

Clocking in at a staggering 130 minutes, longer than the original Kissing Booth and much longer than the traditional Netflix rom-com, The Kissing Booth 2 is filled to the brim with storylines, often to the film’s detriment. Elle and Noah are struggling to keep their relationship afloat through the long-distance and jealously plays the biggest role in this as Elle is skeptical of Noah’s new female friend, Chloe, both due to her charm and Noah’s bad-boy past. Elle also finds herself conflicted in regards to her relationship with Noah as she feels chemistry with new student and resident ‘snack’ Marco.

Envy puts a strain on Lee and Rachel’s relationship as well; with Elle third-wheeling the couple she fails to realize Rachel just wants to spend time with her boyfriend alone, and Lee, not wanting to hurt his best friend, refrains from asking Elle to give them space. Other events round out the film, with a trip to Boston, a multitude of college interviews and an overly-long dance competition subplot. The titular ‘kissing booth’ is shoved haphazardly into the film’s third act and isn’t even that necessary to drive Elle’s story home. There is also a gay relationship added into the film between Elle’s fellow students Ollie (Judd Krok) and the student council president (Evan Hengst), and while this doesn’t hurt, it does feel shoehorned into the story as a way to achieve diversity without much effort or actual attention given to the characters.

Rachel, Lee, and Elle walking through their high school.
Image courtesy of Netflix

It’s clear that oversaturated writing is The Kissing Booth 2’s weakest aspect. With so many characters, writer Jay Arnold and writer-director Vince Marcello try and have a meaningful story for each one. While it is typically a good thing that Netflix allows for such creative independence, The Kissing Booth 2 is a prime example of a time where the streaming giant should have left a lot more on the cutting room floor. Despite the bloated script, Joey King is finally given the chance to shine as Elle. Gone are the sexist and controlling behaviours that riddled the first film; the sequel gives Elle agency not seen in The Kissing Booth. While she is still very much a high school girl making high school girl mistakes, she takes the time to figure out her actions and feelings. King is also given the opportunity to show her comedic chops throughout the movie, with one standout scene being Elle raving about how good-looking Marco is, not realizing the entire student body can hear her over the school intercom. It’s King’s acting and Elle’s character development that makes the sequel the better film.

The first Kissing Booth film had an open-ended finish: the audience knows that Elle and Noah will be separated coming the following school year. The Kissing Booth 2 shows viewers how their relationship apart from one another is playing out. Both films openings have Elle narrating a mishmash recap, but the difference in The Kissing Booth 2 is that this movie’s ending clearly sets up a third film. Netflix has confirmed that The Kissing Booth 3 was shot in secret and will premiere in 2021. With such high viewership numbers of the original Kissing Booth, Netflix doesn’t need to gamble on a third film. They know we will all be back for more Elle Evans.

Dir: Vince Marcello

Prod: Ed Glauser, Andrew Cole-Bulgin, Vince Marcello, Michele Weisler

Cast: Joey King, Joel Courtney, Jacob Elordi, Molly Ringwald, Maisie Richardson-Sellers, Taylor Perez

Release Date: 24 July 2020

Available on: Netflix