Netflix's cast-a-wide-net content development strategy has been well known and highly fruitful since the media giant began producing original films and series almost a decade ago. Just last year, more than 370 new titles debuted under the Netflix banner — averaging more than one new release per day. This method has yielded fodder for just about any type of viewer, whether it's "Stranger Things" for the '80s-style sci-fi junkie, "Marriage Story" for the thoughtful romantic or "Fuller House" for the wistfully nostalgic.
In 2018, Netflix spat out "The Kissing Booth" for a whole other type of crowd: those seemingly opposed to quality, semi-intelligent entertainment. And apparently, that demographic was just robust enough to warrant a doubly-awful sequel.
The plot of "The Kissing Booth" was simple enough: Elle (Joey King), lifelong best friends with Lee (Joel Courtney), falls predictably in love with his devil-may-care, motorbike-straddling older brother, Noah (Jacob Elordi). Hijinks ensue, feelings get hurt, one too many tears are shed, and emotional intelligence is regularly trampled under foot, all on behalf of a protagonist who isn't remotely respectable or exemplary for young female viewers. Oh, and there's a kissing booth in there somewhere.
Anyone who found any of those features inviting or even acceptable is in luck: "The Kissing Booth 2" brings them all back in spades, clumsily tossed into a shoddily-wrapped, 130-minute package. No, that bloated runtime isn't necessarily thanks to the cringeworthy complications introduced by a new, clearly-not-high-school-aged hottie whose abs one might (and Elle does) compare to a tray of ice cubes, or to the pages worth of completely unnecessary narration. Rather, it's a complete lack of discretion — or, let's be honest, elementary storytelling ability — that makes this film's runtime closer to that of "Inception" than that of its own predecessor.
The number of belabored B-, C- and Z-plots Vince Marcello and Jay S. Arnold's script attempts to juggle is astronomical, and roughly half of them have no bearing on what is supposed to be the main issue at hand: With Noah having left for Harvard, Elle tries to curb her very reasonable jealousy of his new, boundary-busting friendship with a gorgeous British coed while also barely attempting to resist the charms of aforementioned dreamboat Marco (Taylor Zakhar Perez). As expected, Elle tackles her issues with the poise and maturity of a Tickle-Me Elmo doll, her blunders and heroics alike born of almost willful impulsivity. And you wouldn't believe the tired rom-com tropes this movie steadily shells out — the last 15 minutes include a lovesick dash through an airport. No joke.
The sophomoric understanding of adolescent behavior on display in "The Kissing Booth 2" is rivaled only by the film's arrant ignorance of basic, uncomplicated narrative structure. For the astute film-viewer, it could easily make for a gut-busting hate-watch — without my roommate there to hurl insults at the screen with me, it wouldn't have been remotely tolerable. But for those who somehow found "The Kissing Booth" un-ironically worth their time … well, they're getting exactly the sequel they deserve.
John Battiston is a Times-Mirror reporter and founder of the Reel Underdogs podcast. Contact him at email@example.com. Reel Underdogs is not affiliated with the Times-Mirror.