Will The Kissing Booth leave you smitten? If you’re a fan of cheesy, teen romance comedies, you already have your answer. For those a bit more selective with their Netflix movie choices, this is probably one you’ll want to skip.
Elle (Joey King, White House Down) has been best friends with Lee (Joel Courtney) since birth…literally. Born at the exact same day and time, the two have been inseparable ever since. But Elle is starting to nurse a crush on Lee’s older brother, Noah (Jacob Elordi). But that goes against one of the main best friends rules that Elle established long ago with Lee: relatives are off limits. Granted, this one seems somewhat one sided since Elle’s only sibling is a toddler and way out of Lee’s age bracket.
Noah is every bit the idealized bad boy. He’s quick to get into a fight to protect Lee and Elle, has all the girls at high school swooning over him, drives a motorcycle and is a star football player. To further stack the deck, Noah is also getting acceptance letters from Ivy League schools. A brawny bad boy with brains? Sounds too good to be true.
Director/Screenwriter Vince Marcello adapts the novel Beth Reekles self-published two years ago when she was 15. That offers some context in terms of what Marcello was working with and some of the changes he had to make i.e. the best friend rules and Elle’s perspective on relationships.
Elle’s never been kissed, but reluctantly agrees to a kissing booth for the school’s fall fundraiser. While most school administrators would frown on this kind of activity, apparently this school is fine since there’s no tongue. Lee hopes this will give him the opportunity to make out with his crush, Mia (Jessica Sutton). Not too shockingly, it’s Elle who finds magic in the kissing booth, but can she trust Noah not to break her heart?
There’s only a three year age gap between King and Elordi. Thanks to his 6’4″ height and King being a foot shorter, the age difference seems far more pronounced. It also doesn’t help that King still looks so youthful at 18-years-old. Buying into Noah and Elle having a sibling-like relationship is far easier than seeing them as a couple. King and Elordi have decent chemistry, but they’re fighting an uphill battle in selling this romance.
In most romantic comedies part of the fun is watching the couple finally realize they’re right for each other. That’s not the case with Kissing Booth as the film keeps making the case against Elle and Noah getting together.
While it might not be as strong as a Bro Code, a Besties Code probably should trump a high school crush. And Elle comes off worse for lying to Lee as well as going against his wishes. Elle’s father doesn’t approve, which is a minor thing in the film’s context, but probably should have more meaning since he’s her only surviving parent. Noah is a hothead and seems to have some real anger management issues. That doesn’t come off as cute and endearing, but more like a guy Elle should ditch to avoid a toxic relationship.
I liked the best friend storyline a lot more since there seemed to be little chance of Noah and Elle surviving Noah’s first year in college. Lee starts off as a pivotal character and then gets relegated to an obstacle so Noah and Elle can keep running around undetected. Even odder, Lee gets into a relationship to the most accommodating girlfriend (Meganne Young) ever and how that affects Elle is barely mentioned.
Still, King is an endearing lead and easily able to keep viewers invested in Elle’s plight. There’s some genuinely funny moments and the cast is likable enough. Given the setup, the ending could only be so pat and oddly seems to brush off everything it took so long to establish.
The Kissing Booth is largely for its pre-teen audience as its flaws will likely stand out like an unwanted cold sore on prom night for those outside of its target demographic.
Rating: 4 out of 10
Photo Credit: Marcos Cruz/Netflix