Vince Marcello (director)
2h 14 mins (length)
24 July 2020 (released)
30 July 2020
Despite being panned by critics, Vince Marcello's 2018 teen romcom The Kissing Booth proved a hit on Netflix, and so fans have been treated to a sequel.
In the first movie, quirky teen Elle (Joey King) found love with her best friend Lee's (Joel Courtney) brother, bad boy high school senior Noah (Jacob Elordi), by embarking on a secret romance after locking lips at the titular booth - a snogtastic charity event she and Lee team up to organise again in this sequel.
Now, with Noah having departed to attend college at Harvard, Elle is distracted during her final high school year by the difficulties of having a long-distance relationship - as well as hunky new kid Marco (Taylor Perez) - whose muscles, striking looks and skill with a guitar make him quite the catch. Also complicating things is cosmopolitan college girl Chloe (Maisie Richardson-Sellers) - who is a little too close for comfort with Noah. Elle's inseparability from best pal Lee also creates problems for him and girlfriend Rachel (Meganne Young) - meaning there's relationship dramas aplenty.
With its love square plot, The Kissing Booth 2 in many ways follows the form of another Netflix teen franchise, To All the Boys I've Loved Before, which also introduced an attractive newcomer in a bid to throw obstacles in the path of protagonists who fell for each other in the first film.
There is, however, less of the spark and emotional depth of those films here - as Elle, her pals, and love interests too often talk in cliches - with the most arresting scene a fast-paced opening montage that fills us in on how Elle and Noah's love has progressed, as well as his departure. The relationships are also strangely stilted, with Elle and Noah's romance hitting the rocks, back in calm waters, and then hitting another reef in staccato fashion.
That said, the popularity of the first film showed that ticking all the teen movie boxes, even if there's little originality, can prove a powerful combination. And its cast are attractive and likeable enough to get something out of a fairly dead script. Perez is a believable interloping love interest who smoulders away without indulging in irritating brooding. Former child star King, meanwhile, captures a character whose dithering and solipsism may frustrate parents, but chime with its teen target audience.
All in all, The Kissing Booth 2 is an improvement on the original - its characters are more mature and there's fewer sexist undertones. A Molly Ringwald cameo also never goes amiss. But while fans may enjoy it as a distraction from the ongoing pandemic, it's not a movie that's likely to live long in teen movie lore.