When Netflix first began their rom-com resurgence, I always had "The Kissing Booth" at the bottom of my list. "To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before" was full of high school tropes that had enough dimension to not be cheesy; "Always Be My Maybe" was a more mature look at predictable romance; and you all completely slept on "Set It Up." Starring Joey King, Jacob Elordi and Joel Courtney, "The Kissing Booth" was fine at best and overtly annoying at worst.
Nevertheless, I obviously watched the sequel.
I will say that I enjoyed round two of Elle, Lee and Noah more, but that mostly lies in the introduction of new characters -- helloooo, Taylor Zakhar Perez and Maisie Richardson-Sellers. The newcomers played the respective antagonists to Noah and Elle, as Marco (Zakhar Perez) and Chloe (Richardson-Sellers) wove their way between our lovelorn central couple. You wouldn’t even really have had to watch the first film to follow the unsurprising storyline of the sequel, which found Elle at odds with Noah after he goes off to college on the other side of the country.
We must take the obviousness of the love triangles and over-dramatic high school existentialism of "The Kissing Booth 2" as they are. But even beyond its predecessor’s not-so-low-key sexist stereotypes, the problematic content that “The Kissing Booth” was based on in the first place continued into its sequel in Elle and Lee’s friendship.
The first scene of "The Kissing Booth" introduces viewers to the "rules" of these teens’ friendship. Most are harmless, like, "Only your best friend gets to know your birthday wish" and, "Best friends must tell each other if there is something stuck in their teeth or on their face," but they also get into things like, "If one friend is sick/moody, the other one is responsible for bringing supplies to make them feel better" and, "Terrible decisions are not to be discussed."
Now, we do have to remember that these characters are in high school, where best friendship is the be-all, end-all of existence. But hey, "moody" is a you problem, and I should hope that if I do something stupid, a friend will tell me. Right?
Off the bat, I hate the pressure of Lee and Elle’s friendship. Of course, there wouldn’t be a film, let alone a trilogy, if it didn’t exist, but still! The rule that gets between these kiddos is #9, "Relatives of your best friend are off-limits," as Lee is Noah's little bro, but should we be applauding a film that romanticizes policing your "best friend’s" actions?
Which brings us to rule #19, part of the premise of "The Kissing Booth 2": "Always go to the same school as your bestie."
As it goes, Elle spends the film hiding the fact that she’s applying to colleges in Boston (to be close to Noah) from Lee. You see, the two of them have a pact to go to UC Berkeley together. Neither of them seem to consider the fact that they are two different people (kids!!!) with different hopes, dreams and goals. Not to mention financial situations.
Now, Elle’s reasonings for applying to other schools is silly at best -- deciding where you spend four of your most formative years based on a high school romance isn’t something I’d recommend -- but the point is that it’s her right! Of course, Lee finds out, and it becomes a Thing™ that comes to a head over Thanksgiving dinner.
I’ll let you watch the end of the film for yourself, but phew -- I dislike this list of rules. Friendship isn’t a game, nor should it be conditional in the very specific sense that "The Kissing Booth" displays. Elle is made out to be the bad guy in the friendship, but shouldn’t Lee just, like, chill? Let her do her thing?
I guess I have enough self-awareness to understand that I’m complaining about a mindless teen rom-com, but let the record show that, sure, they’re cute films, but "The Kissing Booth" franchise doesn’t exactly showcase the best example of friendship.