by Kyle Arango
Netflix has really carved out an interesting corner in film for their service. The romantic comedy genre had almost gone by the wayside in theaters and out of nowhere Netflix revived it. Titles like Set it Up , The Kissing Booth , and Always Be My Maybe were huge successes for them and revealed an audience that has been deprived for many years. Now they have a sequel to one of them out in The Kissing Booth 2 , is that audience going to carry over? If they are fans I think they will, and if the first film worked for you, this one is going to knock you over.
This is a more grounded and complex story than the original, and much better as a result. The original The Kissing Booth is your definition of teenager cotton candy. They pull no punches and make it known from the opening scene what the tone of this film is. If you are in the age range of 9 to 17, you love that movie. The sequel here understands that it needs to tone it down on the cheese in order to appeal to a bigger audience. Here we pickup from the end of the original where Elle has to reconcile with her long term relationship with Noah while also dealing with the case that her best friend Lee has to be with his girlfriend more now. It is your textbook, sappy, teen romance that has the potential to make your brain catch on fire, but damn if this film doesn’t work. The first forty five minutes of this movie are most of the same and you get nervous that nothing has changed, but then somehow they get more serious and the drama rises. Suddenly I found myself invested in this story that I have no business liking and even though I do not like our protagonist, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t invested in her story.
I feel like the difference between The Kissing Booth 2 and the original has everything to do with its cheese. The original just went full on and wrapped itself up in the cheese while this sequel fully understands the genre it is in now and knows how to manipulate it better to make itself so ridiculous that it somehow works. It never loses itself. You would think a movie that involves a relationship where the two can’t trust each other from a distance and think they are cheating meanwhile her bestfriend’s girlfriend is jealous of their friendship and everything comes to ahead at a “Dance Dance Revolution” battle in a stadium would be a disaster but strangely it doesn’t. If you cannot tell, I am really perplexed at how much I ended up enjoying this movie that is not targeting me at all. It has everything I hate about romantic comedies turned up to an eleven but never blows out your eardrums. It will make you feel icky and is way too long for its own good (it feels like it ends four separate times), but it gets the job done.
This film largely brings back everybody from the first film to reprise their same roles along with some new additions to the cast. Joey King is absolutely one of our young actresses to watch and she has something special that she can unleash when allowed to. She does alot with the little amount of range she is given. Jacob Elordi really shot onto the scene last year with Euphoria and now you can really see how that experience changed him as an actor. He was solid in the first film but in the sequel he is terrific. You should despise people who look as perfect as him in these types of movies but he finds a way around that. Same with newcomer Taylor Zakhar Perez who makes full use of the time he has and is incredibly charming. My biggest problem with these movies has been how none of these people look like highschoolers and are all supermodels but the way they went about this sequel was so good that I forgot about that. Also we have the return of my favorite character stink-face dad played by Stephen Jennings who constantly looks like he’s trying to make the Robert De Niro face. Makes me laugh every time.
So is The Kissing Booth 2 the definition of peak cinema? No, but it has a weird charm that makes it work and is more enjoyable than the first. I did not enjoy the original but I strangely came around on this one about halfway through, which is a long half. Netflix knows what they are doing with these romantic comedies, they never intend them to be great, just enjoyable. Get ready for The Kissing Booth 3!