The Kissing Booth 3
Director: Vince Marcello
Cast: Joey King, Joel Courtney, Jacob Elordi
Every era has an iconic teenage rom-com that gets passed on to the next generation, and even decades later, these films never lose their charm. We have Grease and Dirty Dancing, The Breakfast Club and Pretty in Pink. In the 90s there were 10 Things I Hate About You, She’s All That and Clueless. The early aughts could boast of Freaky Friday, A Cinderella Story, A Walk to Remember and many more iconic teenage rom-coms. And the only reason why I’m listing all these films is that The Kissing Booth 3 is not going to be one of them.
To be fair, the Kissing Booth franchise has never been acclaimed, just popular. The films are fun and fluff and a great escape from our mundane and stressful lives (just like many of the films listed above). However, The Kissing Booth franchise lacks the memorability and impact of a solid rom-con because it goes on and on about the same things in every movie.
In the third part of the franchise, we see Elle Evans (King) make a decision about which college she is going to. On one hand is Harvard, where her boyfriend Noah (Elordi) goes to. On the other hand is Berkeley, where her best friend Lee (Courtney) wants to go. Throughout the first two films, it is established that Elle and Lee function through a set of best-friend rules and one of them is to go to the same college. The rules are pretty unbreakable for them, as seen in the first film where Lee forbade Elle from dating his brother Noah.
With this film, we see Elle come to terms with the fact that she cannot make all the people happy in her life. She takes on a mammoth task and soon burns out. Then she realises that she needs to make decisions for herself. Elle’s intrinsic journey also intersects with her love story with Noah, her growing distance with Lee and the presence of Marco Pena (Taylor Zakhar Perez) and Chloe Winthrop (Maisie Richardson-Sellers). The last two characters were introduced in the second film to cause friction between Elle and Noah.
The Kissing Booth 3, as a standalone film, is full of cliched teen-drama tropes. It shows the life of rich white teenagers who party and drink in high school. We have the “second lead still has feelings for the heroine but is acting as her friend” trope. We have the “overprotective boyfriend who gets aggressive to assert his love” trope. We also have the “teenagers trying to navigate long-distance relationship” trope. There are many, many moments in The Kissing Booth 3 that feel borrowed and inspired from things we have watched before.
In fact, it’s a little worrisome how closely the storylines of The Kissing Booth 2 and 3 have mirrored To All The Boys 2 and 3. Both Netflix productions that released at the same time, the major storyline of the two franchises are almost interchangeable.
To All The Boys franchise was released with a lot of acclaim for telling the story of an American-Korean teen. It also made a lot of Asian-American women feel seen. Lara Jean Covey and Elle Evans have a lot in common in their journeys (dead moms included). However, Lara Jean is a better fleshed-out character with her identity bringing a fresh flavour to the franchise. Elle’s identity, on the other hand, is intrinsically linked to the men in her life (her best friend, boyfriend, father and brother) making her feel like a pick-me girl at times.