The Algorithm Thinks Little of Me -- "The Kissing Booth" Review

The Kissing Booth . Photo: Marcos Cruz/Netflix (from  Vulture.com)

The Kissing Booth. Photo: Marcos Cruz/Netflix (from Vulture.com)

Live From The Algorithm is a weekly review series taking a look at the wide variety of Netflix Original Content, from the best to the worst to the outright bizarre.

by Jacob Wallace

Lately I’ve been splitting my time between journalism classes, an internship at a news organization, and this particular publication, and as a result I’ve started having dreams where I’m just endlessly scrolling through Microsoft Outlook, simultaneously searching for and reading pitches for new content. Each new email represents information that I recognize but can’t fully synthesize. I’ll wake up periodically throughout the night, my brain like the surface of a lake pelted by rain, and attempt to shake away just enough fake information to be able to settle back into sleep again.

The Kissing Booth, somehow, has about as much coherence and internal logic as those dreams. Random young adult romance tropes pop up and demand attention even though they’re mashed up in the most meaningless way. There’s one scene where the protagonist finds herself accidentally taking off her shirt in the men’s locker room and starts dancing around as if there’s music playing while her male high school peers all cheer and wolf-whistle. It’d be baffling even in the most well-intentioned romcoms, but here it’s just concerningly delusional.

There’s also a rainy makeout session in a gazebo and sex in front of the Hollywood sign, because why not.

There’s nothing more depressing than watching a movie that plays to the darkest impulses of your twelve-year-old mind and insists that this is still secretly your fantasy today. Beyond my momentary confusion over the presence of the Ditzy One from Big Time Rush, I was never invested in these characters in the same way I was as a teen. The OMG girls, aka Mean Girls, have less dimension than a single speck, yet somehow count among the supporting characters we hear from the most.

Look, I get that this is supposed to be a major coup for readers and writers of fan-fiction and young adult online content. There’s something poetic about Netflix, a digital platform that’s trying to establish a serious name for itself, partnering with a writer from Wattpad, where many writers aspire to do the same. And Vince Marcello, the director behind “Zombie Prom” and “Teen Beach Movie,” was a logical hire - those movies are certifiable campy teen hits. It’s just that you’d really hope that this movie would have the sense to, say, make a mother’s early death from cancer at all relevant to any other part of the movie. It’s impossible to go back in time, but I’d like to think that even as a middle or high schooler I would would have had the common sense to call this movie out for the garbage that it is.

I have been told that there’s far better romantic fare (“To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before”) available on Netflix, and yet this isn’t even the most high-profile bad romantic comedy from Netflix either. That title belongs to “Sierra Burgess Is A Loser,” also known as Barb’s revenge. That somehow puts “The Kissing Booth” squarely in the middle of three of the most talked about teen romances from Netflix. I guess that if you have no standards, and just need a third teen romance after watching the other two, this movie might do it for you. Just be warned - watching this movie drunk won’t make you enjoy it - you’ll just end up hating it even more. Maybe the second one will be better?

Rating: 0 💋 / 10 💋