By Jane Bowden
“Pretty in Pink,” “10 Things I Hate About You,” “A Cinderella Story” — prime examples of high school romantic comedies that are timeless classics for singles and couples alike. Whose face doesn’t turn into a real-life heart-eyes emoji after seeing Heath Ledger dance across the bleachers and sing “Can’t Take My Eyes Off of You” by Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons?
But while watching “To All the Boys: P.S. I Still Love You,” which premiered on Feb. 12, all I wanted to do is take my eyes off of the screen. Why? Because waiting for this film’s plot to be entertaining was like waiting for rain in a drought — it was useless and disappointing.
In 2018, the world fell in love with Peter Kavinsky (Noah Centino) in the film adaptation of author Jenny Han’s book series, “To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before.” Directed by Susan Johnson, the first movie follows high school student Lara Jean (Lana Condor) after her sister sends out her childhood love letters to their proper recipients. Lara Jean suddenly finds her love life go from nonexistent to messy and confusing, as she starts a fake relationship with Peter (one of the recipients of her love letters) in his attempt to make his ex-girlfriend jealous. However, by the end of the film, Lara Jean and Peter fall in love and decide to make their relationship official.
In the second installment of the film series, Lara Jean and Peter’s love story continues, as the couple navigates their newfound relationship. Soon into the film, Lara Jean, who’s never been in a relationship before, starts to feel insecure about being the perfect girlfriend and compares herself to Peter’s ex-girlfriend, Gen (Emilija Baranac). As a result, Lara Jean and Peter’s relationship starts to take a turn for the worst.
Then, in the midst of her trouble with Peter, Lara Jean receives a letter from John Ambrose McClaren (Jordan Fisher), who she had written to in the first film. A few days later, Lara Jean and John Ambrose meet face-to-face, igniting her internal debate: did she choose the wrong person to date?
In a slight nod to the beloved “Twilight” franchise, “To All the Boys: P.S. I Still Love You” makes a poor attempt to sway the audience towards Team Peter or Team John Ambrose. But instead of choosing between a twinkly, 180-year-old vampire or a tan, ripped werewolf, Lara Jean has to decide if she should be with John “I can serenade you on the piano while I tell you how I’ve been in love with you since middle school” Ambrose or Peter — who can do what? Wear Lara Jean’s scrunchie on his wrist? Of course, in classic “love triangle in a romantic comedy” style, Lara Jean has difficulty navigating her feelings throughout the entirety of the film.
Although “To All the Boys: P.S. I Still Love You” promises entertainment, heartache and tension, the “P.S.” in the title should be renamed to “P U,” because, boy, did this sequel stink.
The plot lacks the spark found in the first film. Instead, it is loaded with too many over-the-top corny moments that feel forced and a weak storyline where nothing really happens. If anything, the movie only made me like Peter much less.
The only good aspects of “To All the Boys: P.S. I Still Love You”? The addition of John Ambrose, who’s attentive, charismatic and tugs at the heartstrings of the hopeless romantic within me, and the most interesting character of the series: Stormy (Holland Taylor). With plenty of sass and iconic lines like “Almost every one of my love affairs overlap with another one,” I would much rather learn about Stormy’s love life than Lara Jean’s.
What’s going to happen in the third and final installment of the “To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before” film series? I’m not so sure. All I know is if it’s anything like the sequel, I’m leaving Lara Jean on read, because I’m not going to even bother watching it.