To All The Boys 2 Is Weaker Than The First Movie | Screen Rant
The hotly-anticipated teen romcom sequel To All the Boys: P.S. I Still Love You, based on the second book in Jenny Han's popular YA series, has finally dropped on Netflix. The first movie, To All the Boys I've Loved Before, took Netflix by storm when it dropped in August of 2018. Netflix began production on the sequels, To All the Boys 2 and 3, right away; the many fans of the series will be soaking up the new entry to the franchise in the run-up to Valentine's Day.
In the original, To All the Boys I've Loved Before, Korean-American Lara Jean (Lana Condor) discovers all of her old love notes, which she had written privately and in secret, have been delivered without her consent to every one of her former/present crushes at the same time. Fans of the books and newcomers to the franchise loved the adaptation, and To All the Boys I've Loved Before was a mega hit for Netflix — one that introduced a new boy-crush for the internet to obsess over, in the form of Noah Centineo's Peter Kavinsky.
To All the Boys was one of the standouts of the streaming giant's fresh crop of romantic comedies, which were either revisiting or reinventing the genre in their so-called "Summer of Love," and the adaptation remains one of the best Netflix Original movies. Naturally, Netflix's thoughts turned to a sequel. Now that the second book adaptation has finally hit the small screen, streaming audiences can enjoy the next chapter in Lara Jean's story —albeit a weaker one than the original.
Lara Jean's fifth letter recipient John Ambrose is re-introduced in this movie, but in a different way to the To All the Boys' mid-credits tag, and confusingly, John Ambrose is played by a new actor (Jordan Fisher). Primed as a love rival, John Ambrose is unaware of Lara Jean's relationship with old middle school pal Peter Kavinsky. Although John Ambrose writes to Lara Jean in response to her letter — confusing her emotions — she doesn't write back.
It's not until Lara Jean accepts a volunteer position at a local retirement home that she runs into her previous crush; John Ambrose is also there to help out for college credit. In the book, the coincidence makes a lot more sense: the cool retiree that Lara Jean bonds with (Stormy) is actually grandmother to John Ambrose. In the movie, the coincidence is a little more rote and it grates.
Whilst Lara Jean and John Ambrose renew their bond at the retirement home, it all feels a little forced and the two actors lack chemistry. Arguably, this could be a portent of Lara Jean's ultimate romantic choice, but it's more likely that the dynamic between the two actors simply fell flat. Even the way it's revealed they met as children is weak: they both turned up to a party wearing Halloween costumes (when no one else did), then read Harry Potter together. That's it.
The events of To All the Boys I've Loved Before rightfully portrayed Peter Kavinsky as the dreamboat Jenny Han presented him as in her source material. He inhabits the same iconic role and placement in the teen cinema canon as Blane in Pretty in Pink, Patrick in 10 Things I Hate About You, Zack in She's All That, Duke in She's the Man; the misunderstood guy who's wrongly pigeon-holed but ends up being a real sweetheart.
To All the Boys: P.S. I Still Love You almost completely undoes all of that. Doubt is perpetually thrown on Peter's actions (or lack thereof) surrounding Valentine's Day, as well as a clear ongoing connection with his ex, Gen —the entire purpose of which seems to be the writers wanting the audience to be okay with Lara Jean gravitating towards John Ambrose, even though she's the first one to drift once she receives John's letter.
Having been convinced that Peter was such a great guy in the first movie, his heel turn in the sequel stings of betrayal. Although everything is made right by the end, it felt like the filmmakers were trying way too hard to make Peter seem like a bad guy.
Lara Jean's sojourn to Belleview Retirement Home doesn't work thematically. In the source material, it makes sense as it brings her closer to John Ambrose, who has a reason for being there. By removing Stormy as John Ambrose's grandmother in the movie, it takes away dramatic urgency from the setting.
Whilst necessary to have John Ambrose and Lara Jean in the same place, working side-by-side (John Ambrose goes to a different high school), there isn't much more that's gleaned from the setting. It could've been set literally anywhere else. Stormy's mentor-mentee relationship with Lara Jean also overtly feels like a character telling her everything she already knows. The one perk from the friendship is that she has a beautiful old dress that Lara Jean can use to look stunning in the climax of the movie.
By the end of To All the Boys: P.S. I Still Love You, Lara Jean and Peter are still in a relationship and continue to profess their love for each other. Whilst the events of the story have made them stronger, none of it could have transpired and the status quo between the two would remain the same.
Arguably, Lara Jean has some issues regarding Peter's sexual history that needed to be resolved (being that she's never had a boyfriend); the scenes resulting directly from this debate between Peter and Lara Jean about sexual experience result in some of the movie's strongest. Coming to a resolution with Peter, Lara Jean also manages to come to a truce with Gen— her ex-best friend and Peter's ex-girlfriend — in one of the film's sweeter scenes. However, the movie didn't have to nearly tear Lara Jean and Peter asunder in order to reach these plot points, and the film's affirmation of strong female friendships and bonds would have been stronger for it if To All the Boys 2 hadn't.
As many strong elements as there are to the movie, including a great "Fakesgiving" scene with the family Covey, To All the Boys: P.S. I Still Love You is weaker than the original movie. The sequel simply tries to hard to cast doubt on Lara Jean's relationship with Peter, and his love rival John Ambrose is far too flimsy to be a worthy contender to the Kavinsky crown.