(Netflix Streaming, December 2019) The problem with working in a tradition is not only that the tradition may be flawed, but that you need a push outside the tradition to see what’s wrong with it. Let me explain. Taken at face, undemanding value, The Kissing Booth is no more and no less than your usual high school romantic comedy, with your usual clumsy heroine battling various obstacles on her way to getting the right guy. It very clearly aligns itself with 1980s examples of the subgenre by casting Molly Ringwald as a mom, and features at least one song forever linked with those movies. In many ways, it also includes familiar plot elements for that tradition, what with the heroine working at sanding off the edges of a womanizing guy all too willing to punch anyone else interested in her, or telling her what to do in no uncertain terms. If you’re fresh off a time capsule from the 1980s, The Kissing Booth would be a perfectly acceptable example of the form, following tradition all the way to the smartphone age. But now is not the 1980s, and teen romantic comedies of that era are sometimes horrifying by today’s standards. Having a crush on someone willing to punch out any romantic rival is played for laughs but would be terrifying in real-life—and while The Kissing Booth once acknowledges the inherent violence of its male lead, it stops there without elaboration. There are other annoyances as well: while I’m not the most socially progressive viewer around, there is one jarringly outdated moment in the movie where students are directed to a kissing booth with clearly heteronormative directives. But I can’t help but compare The Kissing Booth with other teen romance movies of 2018, and To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before offers a significantly better choice, while Love, Simon is so much better than either of them that it doesn’t even compare. I will tolerate quite a bit of idiot plotting in teenage comedies, but The Kissing Booth seems badly conceived from the get-go. It’s a bit too well-directed to be terrible (and lead Joey King does have a certain homely charm) and I strongly suspect that older viewers such as myself will be sorely tempted to give the film a pass on account of having seen much worse during their own teenage years, but a comparison with other contemporary movies is not to this film’s advantage.