'The Kissing Booth 2' is better than bad but here's why the Joey King, Jacob Elordi movie disappoints us

The Netflix rom-com also stars Joel Courtney in a leading role and does do better than its predecessor but is it good enough?


                            'The Kissing Booth 2' is better than bad but here's why the Joey King, Jacob Elordi movie disappoints us
Flynn and Rachel in 'The Kissing Booth 2'. (Netflix)

Diving straight in, do you know what the worst thing about 'The Kissing Booth 2' is? The fact that they introduce this influx of ideas that you think is going to go somewhere exciting, but it stops short of it. It stops because they do not dig deep into these ideas. Ideas such as the insecurity over distance in a relationship, the idea that one's 'Happy Ever After' is not going to last forever, but is a fleeting moment that you hold close to your heart to get through the tough days ahead or even the idea of how to introduce new dynamics into relationships that are set in their ways. Like the one between Lee Flynn (Joel Courtney) and Elle Evans (Joey King) with Rachel (Meganne Young) just coming in new, for instance. But beyond all of this, the reason why 'The Kissing Booth 2' stopped just short of not being a run of the mill high school rom-com is its inability to give us nuances of life and love straight to its audience. Yes, I had noted in my review that this sequel was better than its predecessor. But then, that doesn't make it excellent. Just better than bad.

Before fans jump down my throat, hear me out. The first part in many ways was disturbing. Romanticizing "accidental groping", further providing fodder to the mean girls' trope among other things made it worse. Not to forget Noah's aggressive behavior when it came to Elle. This time, the "OMG Girls" ended up just being a group of women who liked to dress up and gossip about friends and Noah learned that his fist was not always the best solution to a problem. Like I said, a bit better than bad. There was thankfully no groping, but a lot of objectification, only this time a boy was at the receiving end of all of it. Also, at least this time around, Elle was not treated like a shiny toy between two brothers.

So moving past all of this, the film touched on different thoughts that were important to explore but left us hanging. Like will Elle be able to make choices without being pressurized by people around her -- be it her boyfriend or best friend? Does she want to go to Berkeley because she feels that it is the best college for her life or does she want to go there to make Lee happy after coming up with all those rules when they were all of six years old? Her attempt at wanting to get into Harvard is definitely not what she wanted either. In fact, it is ironic that the only thing that the first part got right -- addressing what Elle wanted -- was the one thing that was completely missing in 'The Kissing Booth 2'.

 

A still of Elle and Noah in Boston in 'The Kissing Booth 2'. (Netflix)

So, when things got too difficult after Noah left for Boston to Harvard, she decided to think about maybe tailoring her life around this boy in her life that she feels deeply about because it is so difficult to stay apart. However, this didn't go with the promise that she made her best friend. The conflict ends up stressing Elle about what choice to make but not once in the film do we see Elle wonder what she really wants. She thinks about what the universities would want to see in her statement, she thinks about what her boyfriend wants, and she even thinks about what her best friend wants but never about what she wants or which college she wants to go to.

Then she meets this new kid in school, who she is able to talk to and he teaches her a way of life that is new to her. She learns how to let go of everything that has been weighing on her in his company. For one moment, she wavers and at this moment she feels for Marco (Taylor Perez), the new student, and even ends up kissing him. Sure, this was momentary and it was a great thing to address in a film about long-distance relationships. But then, when it came to the moment that mattered, which was the confrontation between Marco and Elle after she kissed him and ran out, she told him he is not the one. There was no understanding of why that moment would have mattered more to Marco than to Elle or bringing that to the fore. In fact, after ghosting him for days, all that Elle had to tell him was this and even her apology was so rushed. It made Marco a plot device for Elle and Noah's relationship to be tested.

 

A still of Elle with Marco in 'The Kissing Booth 2'. (Netflix)

Then we have Elle feeling insecure about Noah after she learns about his new friend Chloe. She looks great, is smart, and is with Noah when Elle cannot be and this insecurity burns down to a niggling doubt in the back of Elle's head about how Noah used to be a player. All of this leads to Elle not noticing any of the red flags around Rachel, like how her spending too much time around Lee was leading to "cock blocking" Rachel. The fact is that the film could have addressed how young people have to be fluid when it comes to introducing new dynamics in relationships that have been set in their ways with Rachel and Chloe but it didn't.

So that's how 'The Kissing Booth 2' ended up being better than bad, but disappointed us with every opportunity that it missed becoming more than another high school rom-com.

'The Kissing Booth 2' released on July 24 and can be streamed on Netflix.

PS: If Netflix is going to release official images of happy graduation pictures of Elle with Lee and Noah, where is the drama that you are trying to peddle in the first place?

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