You have to give Netflix one thing, it is smart as fuck to be releasing TO ALL THE BOYS – P.S. I STILL LOVE YOU two days before Valentine’s Day, and especially in 2020. Why? Because the theaters have almost absolutely nothing to offer lovers and couples. The streaming platform is going to get a bunch of views and a shit ton of ‘Netflix and Fuc’….errr…’Netflix and Chill’ moments. I mean, are people really going to go on a Valentine’s Day date to see a very CGI’d hedgehog get the best of the wackiest version of Jim Carrey’s we have gotten since the 90s? Are they wanting to spend a romantic evening watching a horror film called The Lodge or a huge out of left field re-imagining of a beloved TV classic (Fantasy Island) that isn’t even being screened for critics? The only thing close theaters have to offer anyone is The Photograph with Issae Rae and Lakieth Steinfeld…but come on…not to sound racist, merely pointing out facts, we all know that movie is targeted really for only one demographic and isn’t poised to make that much money this weekend. This ‘To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before’ Netflix sequel is not only targeted for a much, much wider demographic of people, but you can watch it in the comfort of your own home, and don’t have to deal with any other human beings dumb enough to go to the theaters on the most romantic day of the year. The two questions left is what are you going to think of this film, and what did I think of it since I already watched it this morning? Basically, it’s a real simple love potion of a formula: if you liked/loved the first film, you will like/love the sequel.
Me? I thought the first film was a very cute and had solid acting but ultimately forgettable in the end (even though I still sort of remember the first one). All romantic comedy cliche tropes are in full force here, literally no surprises from Act I all the way to Act III. Actor Noah Centineo (Peter) has now completely type cast himself as THE “Netflix Hunk” and unless the upcoming reboot of Master of the Universe exceeds expectations and does him any favors, I’m afraid that’s what he’ll be relegated to the rest of his life. But is that really a bad thing? As the go to Netflix Hunk in your Netflix romantic comedies, he’s the real deal. Yes, he’s basically the same character in this, The Perfect Date, the Charlie’s Angels reboot, The Fosters and Sierra Burgess Is A Loser, but he makes that character charming and someone I’d want to be with if I was a woman or gay. But he’s not the star of this film, merely supporting, as actress Lana Condor plays Lara Jean, and she is just as solid as well, making her character a wholesome girl I would want to be with if I wasn’t already taken and married. If you remember the first film, it is about her character and her letter’s that she wrote to five boys that she had a crush on when she was younger, letter’s not really for the guys but for herself, but her sister finds them, and sends them to the intended recipients. One turned out to be gay, one letter was returned to her, one was to her cute and nice boy neighbor who just had a break up with Lara Jean’s older sister , one letter doesn’t get to another boy until the very end of the first movie (who is one of the main supporting characters in this one), and then one gets to Peter, the main boy from the first one and who’s still the main character in this. Boom, I just described the first half of the first movie.
Anyway, Peter and Lara Jean are together at the beginning of this one and then the last boy with her last letter, John Ambrose, who shows up at the very end of the first movie (albeit in this he is a different actor now, guess they didn’t really think they were going to get a sequel at the time) re inserts himself into Lara Jean’s life, particularly when she is volunteering at this retirement community, and winds up ruffling her feelings for Peter. To me, this didn’t really feel like a true sequel, they probably could’ve cut off the very end of the first film and just added this one on to the end of it and it could’ve been one giant three hour sappy lovey dovey rom com. Or broke it up into 30 minute episodes for a mini TV series. It feels like an epilogue rather than its own thing, and for fans of the books, I couldn’t compare and tell you if that is ultimately a good or bad thing. To me, it felt like I waited two years for just another episode into the lives of these teens. The first film is much better, as the whole story with Lara Jean pretending to be Peter’s girlfriend and their real relationship blossoming from that felt more authentic here when in this sequel, they are still trying to figure out problems between them that I thought were over, solved, and done with from the first film. The ending in this was also a little anti climatic, as everything gets solved within 3 minutes, the past hour and 35 minutes needlessly trying to build up to this choice that ultimately didn’t matter, raise any stakes, or had me worried for the outcome…one bit. The film should’ve taken more chances, not just with her ultimate choice in the end, but maybe some other plot devices that could’ve thrown more wrenches into things. It tries to have this B plot with Lara Jean’s father moving on with his life to date a cute and just divorced neighbor from across the street, but even that story is tied up too quickly into a nice bow.
And yes, I know it sounds like this is a negative review. It’s not, I swear I thought it was enjoyable for what it was. I wish it had more laughs, it is definitely more rom than com and after all is said and done it is just ultimately a cute, strongly acted, forgettable epilogue (definitely weird as it seems a third and final film is already in production ((to adapt the last book)) because it seemed like film had a definitive ending, unlike the first). And I know it’s just a “Netflix” film, but I really wish the producers of these films and the brains behind the streaming platform would realize that they have more potential with these kinds of movies in order to shake things up a little from the books and the cliches that have been dozen and dozens of times, go into unknown narrative territory. These two movies contain strong performances from their two leads that deserve to be in much stronger films. But in the ends I just have to look at the facts when reviewing this: was the movie unnecessary? Abso-fucking-lutely. Did I enjoy myself? Yes I did, the movies pacing a adequate (1 hr 40 minute) run time went by in a flash. Did I like the acting? Lana Condor and Noah Centineo give it their all in these films and it shows. Would I watch it again with my wife if she was interested? Absolutely. Would I forget about it in a year or two? Absolutely yes…until the third film ultimately cues up when starting Netflix. Then I’d forget about all of them by 2025.