Netflix has finally closed out one of their cheesiest, excessive and inexplicably young adult rom-com franchises with “The Kissing Booth 3.” This final installment of high school shenanigans, steamy romance and attempting self-discovery, has fans writhing with disappointment as Elle Evans (Joey King) and the gang fail to effectively wrap their saga. This film series — which is already overloaded with whiny teenagers who pout when they don’t get their way — met its end in a way that brought the drama and lack of common sense over the edge.
To set the stage for this final chapter, it’s important to look back at where the ridiculousness all began. “The Kissing Booth” is about Elle and her best friend Lee (Joel Courtney). This inseparable and insufferable pair is bound together by a silly set of rules formulated when they were children to basically set parameters for how to be best friends. This seemingly perfect friendship begins to show its cracks when Lee’s cool, brooding older brother, Noah (Jacob Elordi), and Elle share a kiss at their high school’s kissing booth fundraiser. The two realize stronger feelings lie beneath the surface and begin dating behind Lee’s back. This breaks some of those friendship rules while it also proves Lee is selfish. The movie’s overarching plot lives and dies on some immature freak-outs at the most minor inconveniences, but at least it provides the audience with that fiery young love that makes cheesy rom-coms worth the watch.
With that, audiences arrive at the final showdown where Elle is confronted with choosing between college with her best friend and college with her boyfriend. As if the teenage drama couldn’t get any more absurd than this, the third film’s plot consists of Elle now having to break one of her friendship rules and not go to college with Lee. Instead, to make it up to him, she decides they should complete a crazy summer bucket list before they leave while she also works to support herself in school and cares for her little brother. To Elle’s defense, these are some serious challenges that anyone from a single-parent household or lower class background could understand. Needless to say the movie grows tired and aggravating fast. Lee constantly guilts Elle for not being there for him when he wants to do a bucket list activity by calling upon their inflexible list of rules from when they were literal children for any argument. When Elle attempts to stand up for herself, he behaves like a child. Meanwhile, in an attempt to salvage her passionless relationship with Noah, she encourages him to participate in the painless summer shenanigans, but he still manages to accuse her of not putting effort into their relationship. He then baselessly breaks up with her in a cringeworthy, green-screened split in front of the Hollywood sign. Elle, for as little personality as she has to begin with, pours all of herself into making these needy, gaslighting jerks happy and it’s a terrible message for teenage girls.
After every avenue of teenage turmoil has been exhausted, the audience is left with a dragged out ending that was so abrupt and out of left field it felt like the production team and writers skipped a few chapters. Elle, who had spent the past three movies charming adults, making the boys cling to her and getting accepted into prestigious universities, magically finds her individuality after a short powwow with Mrs. Flynn (Molly Ringwald). Through her moment of self discovery she realizes she’s passionate about video game design and has a knack for it. Elle then spends her next few years in the University of Southern California designing with flying colors, but while she manages to shed herself of surrounding male drama for a few years, she still fails to connect with any girls her age. In a weak attempt to portray individuality, Elle ends the movie alone.
“The Kissing Booth 3” took a strange, pathetic jab at the romcom formula but missed the mark when making a tolerable trilogy for today’s viewers. The writer desperately tried to make Elle an independent woman at the end of the movie which turned into a vain, last-minute attempt to sprinkle feminism over this heaping pile of already-burning garbage teen drama. The characters were aggravating, the growth was forced and the series may have been salvageable if it stayed on track with the young romance and small strides at character development of the first movie. Netflix may have fared better sticking to the romantic frolics on the beach and motorcycle rides into the sunset that gave “The Kissing Booth” its silly novelty in the first place.
Stream “The Kissing Booth 3” on Netflix.