‘The Kissing Booth 2’ (2020) Review

With Noah at Harvard in Boston, Elle (Joey King) begins her senior year of high school. She and Lee (Joel Courtney) apply to UC Berkeley, as one of their “friendship rules” is to go to school with each other. Noah (Jacob Elordi) suggests Elle apply to some other colleges as well, including colleges in Boston – notably Harvard. Elle agrees, but does not mention it to Lee. As Elle dreams up a way to make enough money to attend school without putting a lot of financial pressure on her dad, she’s thrown into a dance competition with the new heartthrob at school, Marco (Taylor Zakhar Perez), complicating her relationship with Noah.

After finishing The Kissing Booth 2, I realized something. Well, a couple of things. While The Kissing Booth 2 is over two hours long, it didn’t need to be. There is a lot of unnecessary filler that could have been cut to pare the movie down to a manageable hour and a half and there would have been nothing lost at all in terms of plot. I also realized that this movie is essentially the first movie in terms of structure. Elle meets boy. Antagonizes boy. Starts to have feelings for boy. Lies to her best friend and keeps secrets from him. Oh! And another “love montage” that mimics the first film. So many montages.

And lastly, a large portion of this movie involves high school students listening or watching embarrassing or intimate moments with the mouths gaping open until the triumphant conclusion of a kiss or confession of love. Then they all break into laughter, cheers, or applause. Sometimes all three. Where is this high school?!

So, with all the said, is The Kissing Booth 2 any better than The Kissing Booth? Like the first film, the actual kissing booth has perhaps a 5% relevancy to the story. But I feel like I’m becoming nitpicky there. Let’s get to the actual movie. As with the first movie, I really enjoyed Joey King, Joel Courtney, and Jacob Elordi. I think all three are deserving of better material. I suppose there is more going on in this sequel, with Elle trying to decide which colleges to apply to, dealing with her long-distance relationship with Noah while being completely unaware that’s become the third wheel as she continually joins Lee on his dates with his girlfriend Rachel.

New student Marco is the hot new replacement for Noah. He’s studly, popular and a great dancer. Not only that, but he’s a genuinely decent guy. No issues with temper, no desire to control or boss Elle around. The Kissing Booth 2 actually provides a pretty legit threat to Elle and Noah’s relationship. It reminded me a bit of the love triangle in P.S. I Still Love You. Separate the main relationship and introduce a third party just to keep the audience guessing. But is there really any doubt that Lara Jean will end up with Peter? Despite how perfect Marco is for Elle, will she really break Noah’s heart for the new guy? There seems to be some kind of law against such a thing in this genre. Noah was decidedly less problematic here save for a few immature moments, but that’s probably because we didn’t get to see a lot of him, to begin with. The problem is that Marco and Elle didn’t really have a lot of chemistry, at least not to be. They were fun to watch but I didn’t really feel a huge spark there. Maybe because I knew how the movie was going to end, so I already had to block rooting for the guy that I was fairly certain was going to lose out in the end.

As with the first movie, there are a lot of contrived moments that felt incredibly forced and convenient. Elle needs money to pay for school? Oh, there’s a Dance, Dance competition where the winner gets $50,000! Of course, she’s going to enter. Of course, Marco is going to be her partner. I can see where the writer wanted to tie it all together and give Elle and Marco a reason to have to spend time together, but it honestly felt like something I had seen once on Saved by the Bell or some early 90’s show like that.

There is the whole matter of Lee’s girlfriend taking issue with Elle hanging out with them so much and Noah’s sexy new female friend in Boston that triggers Elle’s insecurities. And, for some reason, a brief, sporadic subplot revolving two gay students in the school crushing on each other. There’s just a lot packed into this movie and it felt very disjointed.

Also, in what universe can a senior in high school suddenly say, “Oh, okay, I’ll apply to Harvard to be with my boyfriend. No big deal.” and actually get in? Unless you are Elle Woods, it feels very, very far-fetched. It cannot be that easy to get into an Ivy League school. Right!?

I will admit, I did enjoy the Thanksgiving dinner scene because I am all about angsty drama, though again it felt like most of said drama was created by a total lack of communication. But because the characters are teenagers and (most) teenagers are (generally) dumb, they’ll get a pass for that.

The Kissing Booth 2 ends on a bit of a cliffhanger and they’ve already greenlit the third movie, so… keep an eye on this space for that review. I guess.

Author: Romona Comet

"I'm probably watching a rom-com right now."