Film & TV

The Kissing Booth 2: The Let-Down We All Expected

I never intended to sit down and watch The Kissing Booth 2– it just kind of happened. I saw it on the Netflix homepage, and seeing as I hadn’t hated the first film, I decided to give it a chance. Unfortunately, it quickly became clear that this was another pointless rom-com sequel that we all really didn’t need.

It’s not too widely known that the ‘Kissing Booth’ story is actually based on a book series, which I haven’t read, and so my criticism can only be aimed at the movies. I’d be interested to know if the books are just as bad.

My first issue may seem like a small concern, but it’s something that comes up so often in movies of this type that it stands out considerably. I have a problem with the way the secondary love interest (Marco) is thoughtlessly led on and then quickly dropped by the main female character (Elle). 

Elle spends a load of time with the lovely Marco while her boyfriend Noah is away at university. Elle and Marco eventually kiss, before she reconciles with Noah. Poor Marco is left heartbroken at the end of the film.

Now to me, this concept sounds very familiar- it feels exactly like Twilight, where Bella leads on Jacob for a bunch of films, even though everyone knows that Bella and Edward are endgame. The same is true here. Never for a moment did I doubt that Elle and Noah would be together at the end, so the whole thing just feels cruel to this other guy who doesn’t stand a chance. 

The film also seems to mishandle an attempt at representation by having a gay couple clumsily shoehorned in. Usually I’d be pleased to have a non-straight presence in a rom-com, but their story had no real depth and was hardly developed, to such an extreme that I barely had a grasp on the names of the two characters. This makes me wonder if it was just included because writers were concerned about diversity, instead of there being any proper thought or interest behind it.

More generally, this film is a perfect example of an unnecessary sequel. I felt that the first film ended perfectly: Noah went off to college and that was it. I didn’t need another film about a long distance relationship where we’re shown the couple having video calls and sending each other dry texts.

It’s like if there was a sequel to The Graduate, a film that ends with Elaine and Ben sitting at the back of that bus wondering what the hell they’re going to do next. I don’t want to see them 6 months down the road struggling to make ends meet and with angry parents trying to track them down. No, there’s magic in a stand-alone cliffhanger ending. So when Noah goes off to college- well, I’m happy to leave it there. Will they make long distance work? Who cares! We’ve had the emotional rollercoaster and dramatic payoff; it’s time we let them alone.

The ‘Elle and Noah’ plot is boring and predictable, mostly because we’ve had a whole movie of it already. It would have been so much better if this had been a film about that background gay couple, whose relationship seemed way more complex and realistic. 

Presumably the real issue is that these films are made because they make money, and not because they’re worth making. Sadly, that’s not going to change any time soon. So for now I can only roll my eyes at the thought of The Kissing Booth 3, which is due to be released next year.

Sarah Lewis

Sarah is a non-fiction contributor, primarily writing about film, TV and music. When she's not writing she enjoys spending time on the Cornish coast, and working on her poetry.