The trailer for the Netflix original Tall Girl 2 inspired lots of anticipation for the next installment in my guilty pleasure movie series.
The trailer has all the classic teen movie tropes. The protagonist Jodi (Ava Michelle) gets the lead in the school play to the dismay of her archnemesis Kimmy (Clara Wilsey). Jodi and her boyfriend, Jack Dunklemen or "Dunkers" (Griffin Gluck), fight over her newfound popularity. Following a new teen trope, POC love interest Tommy (Jan Luis Castellanos) – à la John Ambrose in To All the Boys: P.S. I Still Love You and Marco Peña in The Kissing Booth 2 – is introduced as Jodi’s co-star in the play.
The Tall Girl series is the kind you watch when you don’t want to think. It’s the kind of series you love to hate and hate to love. All of these tropes are so predictable, but it’s also exactly what makes people (read: me) keep coming back to watch.
With that said, this sequel was so convoluted and silly. It lacked all of the dumb-yet-undeniably-exciting drama that Netflix original teen movies so often give. The trailer teased us with the most overused tropes, but they were executed pretty half-assedly in the movie.
When the sequel was first announced, I couldn’t possibly imagine what the writers would pose as the main conflict. The entire premise of the original Tall Girl is that Jodi is, well, tall. As in, she wears size 13 Nikes – men’s size 13 Nikes – and has never fit in because of her height.
But this conflict was resolved in the first movie when Jodi gave a cheesy speech at the homecoming dance. She also finally accepted the hand of her 5-foot-7-inch best friend, short boy Dunkers, who had constantly asked her out throughout the movie. The novelty of having a six-foot-one-inch female protagonist was worn out before the sequel could even begin – there was no unique hook this time around.
In Tall Girl 2, the writers focus on Jodi’s anxiety and her breakup with Dunkers instead of her height. The breakup, by the way, was initiated by a middle-school-esque fight in which they each accuse the other of wanting to break up but not having the guts to.
These issues make for a shallow central conflict. Jodi’s anxiety, brought on by stage fright, is hard to believe given her confident homecoming speech in the last movie and extreme popularity in school – she greets everyone in the hallway with finger guns and a wink. Her fight with Dunkers was less an argument over if Jodi had time for him and more of a trivial argument over who “had the guts” to pull the plug.
The writers made an underwhelming attempt to address hate from the first movie, which mostly criticized Jodi’s height as the source of the main conflict rather than, for example, having a disability. In Tall Girl 2, there’s a scene where Jodi’s teacher asks her what her response is to people who say being tall isn’t a real problem. Jodi goes on a mini monologue about how she knows that her problems aren’t worse, but that it can sometimes feel like they are.
I totally agree that you shouldn’t invalidate someone’s struggles just because someone else has it worse, but Tall Girl 2 only proves that Jodi’s issues aren’t that terrible. Throughout the movie, there are four guys – all shorter than Jodi – who admit their romantic interest in her. Right before her first dance practice, she talks about how “tall people aren’t really known for their coordination,” but then 20 minutes later, she’s performing the choreography perfectly. (Michelle, who plays Jodi, is actually a dancer in real life – she’s even appeared in 18 episodes of Dance Moms.)
Beyond the main conflict, the teen movie tropes that Tall Girl 2 tries to adhere to are half-hearted. Kimmy tries to sabotage Jodi in the play, but she never actually does anything – her sidekick friend decides to leave her, prompting her to reconsider her bullying ways. Tommy, the supposed love interest, kisses Jodi once, but she rejects him afterward. Stig (Luke Eisner), the tall guy from the last movie, has a tall sister who visits him. Jodi feels threatened when she sees Dunkers get into a car with this new rival tall girl, but that’s about the extent of the tall sister’s storyline.
These formulaic narratives are introduced only to fizzle out, removing any possibility of satisfying conclusions. Classic teen movies like Camp Rock and High School Musical – and even newer ones like To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before and The Kissing Booth – handle these admittedly cliché stories correctly.
By the end of the movie, Tall Girl 2 felt incomplete. The trivial conflict and half-hearted use of tropes made it feel like nothing even happened. I was left wondering if the story had even begun in the first place.
Instead, as proposed by NBNtertainment Editor Hope Cartwright, a better sequel to Tall Girl would’ve been a complete reversal off the concept: Short Boy. There’s so much to be said about short men (a.k.a short kings) trying to find romantic partners and what that tells us about society’s perception of masculinity.
Short Boy would achieve all the things Tall Girl 2 couldn’t – instead of carelessly using tropes, it would subvert them. Instead of creating conflict out of nothing, it would address a real issue. Most importantly, it would actually teach us something instead of meandering around with unsatisfying plotlines.
Thumbnail graphic by Kim Jao. Images used courtesy of Netflix.