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How ‘The Kissing Booth’ became a pop culture sensation (even if critics hated it)

   

They had just finished up a round of Skee-Ball when they were spotted by a couple of teenage girls meekly clutching iPhones.

We love ‘The Kissing Booth,’” one of the young women exclaimed. “Can we take a selfie with you?
The three stars of the Netflix film — Joey King, 18, Jacob Elordi, 21, and Joel Courtney, 22 — obliged of course. Since the film’s release in May, they said, they’ve been approached like this hundreds of times.

Every day, at least a couple of times a day,” Elordi said. “Some people are strange, but most of the young kids are awesome. The other night I was eating by myself at a diner and a group of college friends asked me if I wanted to sit with them, so I did.

His costars, meanwhile, grew up as kid actors in Hollywood. Courtney was 14 when he scored his first big role in J.J. Abrams’ “Super 8,” and King just 10 when she starred opposite Selena Gomez as the iconic Beverly Cleary character Ramona Quimby in “Ramona and Beezus.”

But despite years of building up solid resumes — King has appeared in “The Conjuring,” “The Dark Knight Rises” and the TV series “Fargo” — none of their projects have given them the instant recognition of “The Kissing Booth.” Earlier this month, Ted Sarandos, Netflix’s chief content officer, called the film “one of the most-watched movies in the country, and maybe in the world.”

Which, frankly, no one expected.
The film is based on a story written by a 15-year-old, and it first appeared on Wattpad, an online self-publishing platform. It follows an upbeat teenager named Elle (King) whose high school existence is going swimmingly until she falls for her best friend’s hunky older brother (Courtney plays the BFF, Elordi the b.f.). It was directed by Vince Marcello, a Disney Channel filmmaker responsible for “Teen Beach Movie” and its subsequent sequel, “Teen Beach 2.”

In other words, “The Kissing Booth” is cute enough, but the majority of critics have declared it an objectively bad movie: It has a 14% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

But as Vulture put it, the romantic comedy is “bad in a comforting way. Most of the plot points and supporting characters are blatant rip-offs of earlier teen films, which gives the film a similar quality to those pop songs that build their hooks by sampling previous hits.”

It’s also an intriguing new piece in the ongoing puzzle known as Netflix original movies. While the streaming giant has produced a slew of respected, award-nominated television fare — “Orange Is the New Black,” “House of Cards,” “Making a Murderer” — its film content has yet to make the same kind of broad impact.

Dee Rees’ “Mudbound,” which the company picked up at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival, earned Netflix its first Oscar nominations outside of documentary categories just this year.

Other titles — from “Okja” to “War Machine” to Sundance prize winner “I Don’t Feel at Home in This World Anymore” — have flown lower on the cultural radar. Even a “success,” like Will Smith’s “Bright” — which Netflix says attracted a lot of eyeballs, though it never publicly released streaming figures — was dinged by scathing reviews.

But few, if any, of Netflix’s movies outside of its film library have been aimed at young people. Which is partially why the company decided to produce “The Kissing Booth,” financing the film’s two-month shoot in South Africa last year.

We had ‘13 Reasons Why’ and ‘Stranger Things’ on the series side, but it was a space we hadn’t explored much on the film side,” said Ian Bricke, Netflix’s director of independent film. “We thought this had a Disney Channel vibe, but felt slightly more grounded — it felt like an interesting, underserved spot between younger YA and edgier teen fare.

Full article: latimes.com