Elle (Joey King) and Lee (Joel Courtney) have been best friends since childhood. They even had a long list of “rules” for their friendship to abide by, including #9, no dating Lee’s hunky older brother, Noah (Jacob Elordi). Wouldn’t you know it though, Elle has harbored a crush on Noah for years, despite the fact that he’s bossy, a player, and controlling. Flash forward to junior year of high school, where Lee and Elle have to come up with a way to raise money for a school fundraiser. They finally decide on a kissing booth, which leads to Noah and Elle locking lips. Their mutual attraction grows until they decide to date secretly until Elle can find a way to tell Lee about her new romance with his brother.
So, when COVID started and I began working from home, this was one of the teen rom-coms I attempted to watch. I got about twenty minutes into it and had to turn it off. I don’t know if I just wasn’t in the mood to watch it, or it was so bad from the get go that I had very little patience to suffer through. Fast forward to August and I finally decided to finish this movie. Don’t ask me why, okay? There are so many romantic comedies that are generally hated but I end up loving them, so I thought maybe this would be one of those times.
It was not.
Let me get this out of the way first – there aren’t really any bad performances here unless you count the supporting players like the OMG girls, who are the poor man’s Plastics (Mean Girls). Braindead, no personality, and one dimensional. But honestly, the main cast was perfectly fine, despite the material given to them. I like Joey King as an actress. Joel Courtney was fantastic in Super 8 and even though his character was problematic, Jacob Elordi actually brought some depth to his role. Considering Elordi really shines in Euphoria, it’s clear to me the issue with this movie isn’t the acting, it’s the writing. The plot is extremely bland and predictable.
There’s too much exposition at the beginning of the film, which is then quickly stuffed with trope upon trope, none of which are executed all that well. We even get a “falling in love” montage. Of course, there’s nothing really wrong with that, but the dialogue is pretty cringe-y and induces massive amounts of eye-rolling. There were so many contrived scenes as well – Elle and Noah, both half-naked, getting caught in a curtain and rolling around on the floor together (The Proposal did it better), Elle giving the boys’ locker room a minor strip tease to stick it to Noah, etc. etc. It felt so forced that I had to pause it several times and take a break.
For me, The Kissing Booth is just another attempt to prove how true love can help transform the sexist, temperamental heartthrob into the perfect boyfriend. I’m also growing tired of the “we’re best friends, but you can’t date my brother/sister!” trope. It just reeks of controlling, unhealthy friendships and I would much rather see some new, more original plot devices being used in these films. I kept hoping Lee would come to his senses and do something selfless for his best friend by being okay with Elle and Noah’s relationship, but even that was a total letdown.
Simply put, it’s just not a good movie. It’s not even “so bad, it’s good!” material. It reminded me a lot of fanfiction I used to read when I was a teenager, and then I realized this is based on a piece of fiction posted on Wattpad, so… I guess that makes sense. I’m giving this one star simply because I liked the three main actors and… I’m probably going to watch The Kissing Booth 2. I keep reading it’s over two hours long, so I’ll probably wait for an evening where I can drink.