Netflixable? “The Kissing Booth 2,” oh yes they did

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The kids are facing a grim school year, no matter which way  the COVID turns. They could use a little end-of-summer escape. And with most cinemas still closed, it’s up to the Kings of Teen Romance, Netflix, to provide it.

So it’s once more into the “Booth,” dear friends, once more, for Joey and…Englewood?

“The Kissing Booth 2” gives us the “Booth” kids’ senior year, with no social distancing or economy in free fall. It’s a half hour longer than the original film, which was a Netflix blockbuster. It’s about one-third as funny and not even half as charming.

But if you’re all caught up on your summer reading list and braced for distance-learning, what they hey? It’s binge-watching length without the uh, commitment.

Joey King, Queen Bee of this age group and this genre, returns as Elle Evans, the pouty pixie who landed the School Hunk, Noah (Jacob Elordi), for her club’s kissing booth fundraiser, and for her very own boyfriend by the end of “Booth.”

As in all the worst John Hughes movies, she chooses the short-tempered rich jock for the jock’s adorable younger brother, Elle’s BFF Lee (Joel Courtney).

Girls always prefer the “older man” with the Shadow motorcycle to the kid with the vintage GT-350 Mustang. The fools.

“Booth 2” sends Noah off to Harvard and Elle to make up her mind about planning her college life and future — with or without him. Will she go to UC-Berkley like her late mom, and Lee and Noah’s mom (Molly Ringwald) did back in the last millennium? With Lee? Which they’ve been planning to do together and even have a pact about?

Or will she go chasing a man to that icon of Eastern Privilege, which her family can’t afford to send her to?

Complicating that dilemma is the new hunk on campus for their senior year at tony LA Country Day. Marco (Taylor Zakhar Perez) sings, plays guitar and is just gorgeous, “a SNACK indeed,” something Elle blurts out, by accident, over the school intercom.

“Two tickets to the GUN show please, because are those arms, or CANNONS?”

So here are the obstacles the two 30something guys who cooked up the script came up with.

GET Marco for the kissing booth.

GET Elle a solution to her cash for college dilemma.

MAKE Elle choose between last year’s “snack,” and this year’s “snack.” Throw in a sophisticated, sexy Brit “supermodel” Harvard “complication” (Maisie Richardson-Sellers).

And get Lee a girl of his own (Meganne Young), or make Elle see the light about her “bestie.”

Do you see 130 minutes of movie in there? Well, maybe when you’re older you’ll be better at rom-com math, kids.

The school is like an over-decorated version of Hogwarts where adults/teachers don’t figure in the story. At all. Save for a guidance counselor.

The heavy-lifting in this sequel involves putting King and a couple of her co-stars through rigorous Dance Dance Mania (Dance Dance Revolution missed a product placement ad here). The dance game stuff is fun the first couple of times we see it.

The rest of the movie is perfunctory in all the worst sequel ways — briefly referencing the “rules” the two besties play by, briefly giving “Sixteen Candles/Pretty in Pink” veteran Ringwald the “follow your heart” speech, covering everything that happened BETWEEN the movies in a montage. Burying us with other montages — a whirlwind trip to Boston, for instance.

Skipping over the fact that Elle and Noah basically shacked-up between her junior and senior years would feel a cheat. But then, we’ve seen “Summer ’03.” Ms. King left little for us to imagine in that sex romp.

There’s time for pandering to assorted corners of the audience, giving any character that popped in the first film screen time to please fans who connected with them. There’s a little inclusion — a gay couple comes out.

But there’s nothing funny — save for the outtakes. The chemistry between King and Courtney in those is better than anything we feel for Elle’s pairing up with Elordi or Perez in the movie. They’re each a foot taller than her, for starters. Makes them come off as much older than her, and “cute” kind of goes out the window.

Netflix should have hunted around for a hungry young female screenwriter to take a pass at this script. It lacks warmth, a feel for its heroine, who may narrate in voice-over, but comes off as more removed from the proceedings this time.

King’s agent should be holding out for script and screenwriter approval. All “Kissing Booth 2” — yes, there could be more sequels — accomplishes for her is hinting that she could hold her own in a dance movie. Maybe.

1half-star

MPAA Rating: TV-14, a lot of snogging, some innuendo, a little profanity

Cast: Joey King, Joel Courtney, Jacob Elordi, Taylor Zakhar Perez, Meganne Young, Maisie Richardson-Sellers and Molly Ringwald

Credits: Directed by Vince Marcello, script by Vince Marcello and Jay. S. Arnold, based on the Beth Reekles book. A Netflix release.

Running time: 2:10

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