When the original Kissing Booth hit Netflix in the spring of 2018, it was a phenomenon. One might even say that its success kicked off the streaming service’s YA romantic comedy craze, neck-and-neck with All The Boys I’ve Loved Before films. The movie based on a novel that had roots in Wattpad was fine enough, easy entertainment. But now we’re at the second sequel and I would just like to ask… why? Especially, when it takes literally two hours for us to see a single kissing booth in frame.
The truth is The Kissing Booth movies were not made to be of quality – they were made for the high school drama and to watch three classically attractive boys in swim trunks fight over a young girl whose personality is said teen boys. And hey, I can respect that to a certain degree. The Kissing Booth has known what it’s about, but this third film is so wrapped into itself that it crosses a line into boring and overzealous. It feels like the movie version of a 100-question Buzzfeed quiz about ‘Which cute boy/Ivy League college combination should you go for based on your favorite summer outfit?’ And good riddance Joey King’s Elle finally makes her choice.
For those already invested in the characters, the Netflix release certainly aims to please.
But who am I kidding here, if you’ve watched the other Kissing Booth movies, you’re kind of backed into a corner here. Your journey must be finished with The Kissing Booth 3. This movie really wants to give fans some sort of epic closure and if you’re invested in Elle’s odd triangle with Joel Courtney’s Lee and Jacob Elordi’s Noah, there’s a soft spot left for the premise to explore. The movie sees Elle and the Flynn brothers saying goodbye to their summer beach house whilst she makes a decision about where she’s going to go to college, because apparently Harvard and Berkeley are willing to wait up until move-in day in the fall to secure a spot for Elle.
Her initial decision is to go to Harvard with her boyfriend Noah, who are getting more serious and plan to move in together. But Elle is caught between her childhood plans with Lee to go to college together at the other school she’s been accepted for. It could be a fun problem to explore under other circumstances, but The Kissing Booth 3 is absolutely exhausting to see unfold between the poor script and overall ridiculous storylines. Why? Because each character seems written to appease how a ten-year-old thinks teenagers act. Once it gets to the pile on of final moments (not unlike Return of the King) you’ll likely convince yourself it was worth the watch. The ending is fine-enough crafted fan service if you've already invested time in the other two movies, but at the cost of a lot of wasted energy.
The Kissing Booth 3 is more of a prolonged trudge to draw out a popular storyline than a movie.
Has it been mentioned that this movie drags? Two hours! James Gunn’s The Suicide Squad, which came out the previous weekend, has something like fifteen main characters and is only 20 minutes longer than The Kissing Booth 3, and I can’t figure out why. Watching this movie feels like you’re watching the fifth season of a CW show midway through its season. The only interesting part about it is this cute summer bucket list that Elle and Lee have together that they are completing together before going off to college in different directions, but that is told through a montage and then pushed to the side as a nuisance that is stopping Elle from having a good relationship with her pushy and void-of-personality boyfriend.
The simple reason why The Kissing Booth 3 doesn’t work is because there did not need to be a Kissing Booth 3. Many of the storylines feel like an overreaching attempt to give audiences more of these characters, but instead of giving them actual depth, the movie turns to petty love-triangle dialogue.
Despite its best efforts, The Kissing Booth 3 is a predictable and bland finale.
And in the end, The Kissing Booth 3 doesn’t have a lot to say either. There is a somewhat helpful (but uninspired) message about being true to yourself and not letting other people gear your decisions. Yet, because the movie itself doesn’t lean into Elle’s qualities apart from her relationship with the Flynn brothers, it’s tough to really care what she does either way by the time she arrives to the payoff of all the back-and-forth misery.
When it comes down to it, the plot line is just a discount and photocopied All The Boys: Always And Forever from earlier this year. And so, picking between two very wealthy colleges and two subpar men is apparently the universal teen girl experience according to Netflix.
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