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Review: Muuah! 'The Kissing Booth 2' a slick, sweet teen rom-com

Joey King is back in the sequel to 2018's bouncy, fun streaming hit

Adam Graham
Detroit News Film Critic

Way back in 2018, the teenage rom-com "The Kissing Booth" was a surprise hit for Netflix, and it was no wonder why: it presented an innocent, fun, candy-colored vision of high school romance and was stacked with a good looking cast of characters whose problems could all be ironed out at the titular attraction at their school's annual fundraiser.

"The Kissing Booth 2" is equally charming, and its sitcom gloss is shiny enough to style yourself in its reflection. It's like a middle schooler's vision of senior year in high school come to life, if their only exposure to the world was through Disney Channel original programming. 

Joel Courtney and Joey King in "The Kissing Booth 2."

Joey King, Emmy-nominated for last year's "The Act," is back as Elle, who is still besties with Lee (Joel Courtney) and is in a relationship with his big brother Noah (Jacob Elordi).

Noah is now off at college at Harvard — of course he's at Harvard, in movies like this college always equals Harvard — and their relationship is starting to feel the strain of long-distance. Plus he always seems to be hanging around Chloe (Maisie Richardson-Sellers), who is intimidating because she has an accent, which must mean she's sophisticated. 

Meanwhile, super hot new-guy-at-school Marco (Taylor Perez) is maybe crushing on Elle, and maybe she's crushing on him back? And then there's Lee's girlfriend Rachel (Meganne Young), who rightly always feels like the third wheel to Elle and Lee, who spend an inordinate amount of time hanging out together even though their relationship is totally platonic. Probably. 

Rather than a love triangle, "The Kissing Booth 2" presents a love hexagon between these six characters, and nimbly manages to sustain it for "The Kissing Booth 2's" two-hour plus runtime. ("The Kissing Booth 2" runs 40 minutes longer than Tom Hanks' Navy boat WWII epic "Greyhound," probably because "Greyhound" didn't have an entire video game dance machine contest subplot to contend with.)

Director Vince Marcello returns and keeps the same vibe of slightly edgy innocence, adding just enough grown-up elements (a scene of drinking, a love scene) to make it feel slightly less than saccharine. 

As for zeroing in on the feelings of confusion and displacement felt by teenagers, look elsewhere; there are plenty of high school films, from "Fast Times at Ridgemont High" to "The Edge of Seventeen" that do that better. "The Kissing Booth 2" is a sun-kissed fantasy with an appealing cast and a slick presentation that provides an easy escape, and that's OK, too. Go ahead, give it a smooch. 

agraham@detroitnews.com

@grahamorama

'The Kissing Booth 2'

GRADE: B

Rated TV-14: Language, sexuality, a scene of drinking

Running time: 132 minutes

On Netflix