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Review: Another dull go-around with ‘The Kissing Booth 2’

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We all like bad movies when we’re young and sometimes we like good movies for the wrong reasons. I can pretend my 11-year-old self loved “Clueless” when it came out in 1995 for its smart satire of teen movies in a modernized Jane Austen framework. But if I’m being honest, it definitely had more to do with that dreamy Los Angeles high school lifestyle, a burgundy baby doll dress, a fuzzy pink pen and a handsome love interest. It just happens that “Clueless” was also a good movie.

So I can’t fault any teen or pre-teen who has found themselves swooning over “The Kissing Booth” and its own fantasy of Los Angeles high school life the way I swooned over Cher and Josh’s first kiss a quarter century ago. Unfortunately, “The Kissing Booth” is not a good movie and neither is its sequel.

Here’s the short of it: If you liked “The Kissing Booth,” you’ll probably like “ The Kissing Booth 2.” If you didn’t, you’d be better off spending your 132 minutes (seriously) doing something — anything — other than giving this shameless, uninspired and, worst of all, dull movie a moment of your time, attention or thought.

It’s not a surprise that it exists. “The Kissing Booth,” based on a 15-year-old’s internet-published novel, became an unexpected, grassroots phenomenon for Netflix in 2018. The silly teen trifle struck a chord with the ever-elusive young adult demo who watched, re-watched, tweeted and talked about this movie in which a high school junior, Elle (Joey King), starts dating her best friend Lee’s (Joel Courtney) older brother, Noah (Jacob Elordi).

Their social media followings exploded (it didn’t hurt that King and Elordi were also dating in real life at the time), and people kept watching the film despite the fact that it carried a decidedly rotten Rotten Tomatoes score.

Thus the sequel, directed and co-written again by Vince Marcello, doesn’t stray too far from the formula of the first, putting well-worn high school movie tropes in glossy, expensive packaging. Marcello has gathered up much of the original cast, including poor Molly Ringwald as Noah and Lee’s mother, to take us through Elle’s senior year in which she navigates college applications, a long-distance relationship with Noah (now a freshman at Harvard), a new crush and the big Dance Dance Revolution contest that she has to win for tuition money.

Like the first, this movie does not exist in any sort of reality: financial, emotional or physical.

The one saving grace is King, a genuinely delightful young actor who manages to hold your attention and empathy even if her underwritten character barely deserves it.

“The Kissing Booth 2,” a Netflix release, has not been rated by the Motion Picture Association of America. Running time: 132 minutes. One and a half stars out of four.

 

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