Welcome back to the world of The Kissing Booth, where Elle (Joey King) is trying to keep her long-distance relationship alive while striking up a connection with a new DDR-loving guy and a whole host of other subplots fight for the limelight.
The irony of this movie is that it’s called The Kissing Booth 2. Why is that ironic? That’s because despite the fact that this movie has a tonne subplots, is all over the place and is almost 2 hours and 15 minutes long – there is maybe five minutes of content focused on the kissing booth. The story of this film is an absolute mess from beginning to end. It’s trying to juggle so many arcs at once that it doesn’t know which one to focus on and ends up dropping them all. None of the arcs are engaging and none of the characters are likeable enough to root for them. The writing is so off that it actually makes a number of the main characters who you’re meant to like seem very unlikeable, and thus any interest in their respective arcs drops off.
Between the college applications subplot, the scandalous cheating, the love triangle, the kissing booth and the DDR competition, it’s hard to stay hooked on what’s going on. It jumps around and drifts off on so many tangents that it feels like every moment is buying time to get it over the two-hour mark. Which begs another question; why did this need to be over two hours long? If this had been a solid 90 minutes with a number of subplots condensed it would have been easier to get through and might have actually been somewhat enjoyable. However, it’s overly long and will have you checking the time towards the end to find out you’ve just hit the halfway point. In contrast to the first film, where the first two acts were disastrous and the last act picked back up, this sequel is consistently poor the whole way through.
I will give the film and the writers some credit though, it doesn’t take itself entirely seriously. I do feel like it takes itself a little too seriously for what it is but there are a few instances where it’s clear the film knows what it is and what its audience wants. These are the moments where you can actually have some fun laughing at the film and feel like the film is laughing along with you. There aren’t many of these moments, but there’s a couple.
The story is all over the shop, the dialogue is flat and the comedy doesn’t hit the mark, but some of the performances do shine beyond the film’s missteps. Despite the narrative being a mess, it’s clear the actors are having fun with their roles and that does come through in their characters. Joey King brings an energy to a number of scenes that is necessary to lighten the mood and bring some interest to the story. She’s the one holding the entire film together with a performance that has surpassed the quality of the film. Unfortunately she isn’t matched or challenged by any of the other performers. She does have some good chemistry with Joel Courtney that really adds to the fact that they’re best friends in the narrative. Taylor Zakhar Perez and Jacob Elordi don’t really bring much in terms of charisma and they’re both just there, not really contributing much.
In the end, The Kissing Booth 2 has a very specific audience that it is catering towards and it does everything to service that small group while disregarding everything that will make it enjoyable for anyone else. That’s fine, people love the franchise and that’s good for them. However, the cliche dialogue, ineffective humour, lack of emotion and absolute train-wreck of a story don’t help it in any way. Joey King is the only shining light, with a performance that holds everything together, keeping the film from falling apart. I’d say for anyone who isn’t in the target audience, if you’re watching the film in a group setting with the intention of laughing at how terrible it is, you might get something out of it. With a third film coming in 2021, surely we’ll get another slow-mo dancing montage with images of characters fading in and out to make for another hilariously terrible scene.