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Every era has an iconic teen rom-com that’s passed on to the next generation, and even decades later, these movies never lose their charm. We have Grease and Dirty Dancing, The Breakfast Club and Pretty in Pink. I Hate About You, She’s All That and Clueless were 10 things in the ’90s. The early aughts can boast of iconic teen rom-coms like Freaky Friday, A Cinderella Story, A Walk to Remember, and many more. And the only reason I am listing all these movies is that Kissing Booth 3 is not going to be one of them.
The Kissing Booth 3
To be fair the Kiss Booth franchise has never been appreciated, just popular. Movies are fun and sparkling and a great escape from our mundane and stressful lives (just like many of the movies listed above). However, the Kissing Booth franchise lacks memorability and a solid rom-con effect, as it goes on and on about the same things in every movie.
In the third part of the franchise, we see Elle Evans (King) decide which college she is going to. On one side is Harvard, where her boyfriend Noah (Elordi) goes. On the other hand is Berkeley, where his best friend Lee (Courtney) wants to go. During the first two films, it is established that Elle and Lee act as best friends through a set of rules and that one of them attends the same college. The rules are too unbreakable for them, as seen in the first film where Lee forbids Elle from dating her brother, Noah.
With this movie, we see Elle come to terms with the fact that she can’t please all the people in her life. She does a gigantic act and soon gets burnt. Then he realizes that he needs to decide for himself. Elle’s inner journey also coincides with her love story with Noah, her growing distance with Lee, and the appearance of Marco Pea (Taylor Zakhar Perez) and Chloe Winthrop (Maisie Richardson-Sellers). The last two characters were introduced in the second film to create friction between Elle and Noah.
Kissing Booth 3, as a standalone movie, is full of cliched teen drama tropes. It shows the lives of rich white teenagers who party and drink in high school. We have the “the other lead still has feelings for the heroine but is acting as her friend” trope. We have the “overprotective boyfriend who gets aggressive to profess his love” trope. We also have the “teenager trying to navigate long distance relationships” trope. There are many, many moments in Kissing Booth 3 that are borrowed and felt inspired by things we’ve seen before.
In fact, it’s a little worrisome how closely the story of Kissing Booth 2 and 3 is mirrored by both the Netflix productions 2 and 3 that released at the same time, the major storylines of the two franchises are nearly interchangeable.
To All the Boys franchise was released to much praise for telling the story of American-Korean teens. It also made many Asian-American women feel seen. The journey of Lara Jean Covey and Elle Evans has a lot in common (dead moms included). However, Lara Jean is a better fleshed-out character with her own identity bringing a new flavor to the franchise. Elle’s identity, on the other hand, is intrinsically linked to the men in her life (her best friends, boyfriend, father, and brother), which makes her feel like the girl I like at times.
The lack of variety is a problem in Kissing Booth 3. In the second film, the only characters in Color were Marco and Chloe. In that film, Marco was better fleshed out (albeit sexually) and Chloe was written off as an obvious seductress, which is just misunderstood. In this film, we see Chloe get her backstory and struggle, but it goes nowhere.
This is probably one of my problems with the movie, all the redemptive elements seem demonstrative. Even Elle’s redemption arc comes too late to become an independent woman, after she spends two and a half movies crying over the men who have hurt her (or whom she has hurt).
However, to give credit where it is due, the Kissing Booth movies have gotten a little better over the years and therefore by default, TKB 3 is the franchise’s best film. Apart from the overdone and flattering dialogue, and an unnecessarily tense portrayal of a brotherly relationship, The Kissing Booth 3 is an entertaining watch. It also takes a very bold step with its climax, which may not have appealed to many fans, but was necessary to stand out from most films in the genre. All in all, The Kisses Booth 3 is not a mess but unsalvageable.