There is a question to be raised about the context and quality of The Kissing Booth as a series. With a third (and final) film on the horizon, how many will look back on this trilogy with fond memories? Make no mistake, there are plenty of romantic comedies available that will stick with audiences and give them a fondness for the laughter and love portrayed on the screen. The Kissing Booth 2, which has little to do with the namesake that tied it into the first feature, is a long and testing creation that pits the worst genre tropes against one another.
Reliant on cliché and dialogue that feels akin to nails on a chalkboard, The Kissing Booth 2 does pick up where the previous instalment left off. The issue there, though, is that the first was so forgettable, so agonizingly long, that it is hard to figure out where to pick up the first few pieces. Joey King and company all return, dishing out performances that look pained and tedious. Who can blame them? They are stuck swanning around the cushy high life their characters have somehow wandered into. Motorbikes, beach houses, and a generic-looking lifestyle for Elle Evans (King) and the other two corners of this shameless love triangle. Where The Kissing Booth 2 fails is in the relatability needed to connect with an audience. Nothing about the characters presented here, romantic interests or not, feels genuine or comfortable. It all comes together with professionalism, but there is no room for real emotion in any of these performances.
Most of that is an issue director Vince Marcello is ill-prepared to deal with. How can you coax love out of something when there isn’t anything to fawn over? Jacob Elordi and Joel Courtney may have stronger projects elsewhere, but here they are the sappy, controlled leading men Hollywood churns out every other week. There is nothing particular about their presence that screams of quality or impressive talent. They are certainly present, but that is not enough. Destined to swan about this genre for the rest of their days, the least they could do is present some ounce of quality to their work. They, along with King, go through the motions of this unnecessarily lengthy romantic mess, where the characters are stereotypically bland, trying to catch us up with their uninteresting lives through montage moments. How someone can live in a summerhouse mansion, work as a waitress, enjoy the beach and also need a credit card is flummoxing, but those gritty details add depth, presumably.
Rather telling it may be that “Netflix Presents” is shown as a shoddy Hollywood sign, The Kissing Booth 2 is far away from the glitz and glam of Los Angeles. Talentless shlock that rides the high of being on a streaming platform where success is gauged on clicks and views rather than ticket sales. It is an indestructible format that has seen so many cheap and chastising projects slither out onto streaming services. What feels so insulting about The Kissing Booth 2, though, is how risk-free and careless it is. At best, it feels like an advert for U.C. Berkley and Northern California, at worst, it turns the spotlight on Netflix’s systematic oppression of dangerous, entertaining ideas, instead finding comfort in the relentless hell of underwhelming romantic filler.