Anna Cathcart in “XO, Kitty.”
“To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before” has spun off into a series about the little sister.
The new Netflix series “XO, Kitty” follows Kitty (Anna Cathcart), the bubbly self-professed “matchmaker” younger sister of Lara Jean Covey (Lana Condor), who was the heroine of the 2018 movie (and its two sequels).
“XO, Kitty” is busier than the simply plotted “To All the Boys,” for better and for worse, but, fans of the films — or viewers hankering for a cute (and very tame) romcom – should find plenty to enjoy and it’s helmed by Jenny Han, who wrote the books on which “To All the Boys” is based.
Kitty, now 17, and with her older sisters off in college (they appear in the show in the form of text messages), is ready for her own adventure.
A hopeless romantic, she convinces her father (an under-used John Corbett) to send her to the Korean International School of Seoul– which has the overly on-the-nose acronym “KISS.”
It also conveniently happens to be her late mother’s alma mater. There, she plans to surprise her long-distance boyfriend, Dae (Minyeong Choi), and get her first kiss.
Of course, her best-laid plans go awry almost immediately. Kitty misses her bus from the airport after arriving in Korea. She struggles with the language barrier. She gets hit by a car (it’s moving slowly, so the moment is played for humor rather than alarm).
And predictably, Dae isn’t the dreamboat that she thinks he is — because it turns out that he already has a girlfriend, the snobby heiress Yuri (Gia Kim).
Kitty is ready to call it quits on her grand plan to study abroad for love. But she soon gets swept up in discovering her Korean heritage and sniffing out details about her deceased mother’s time at the school. She also encounters a bevy of quirky side characters, including Dae’s too-cool-for-school best friend, Min Ho (Sang Heon Lee), and nice guy Q (Anthony Keyvan).
So even though Kitty’s impulsive trip across the ocean crashes and burns at first, it soon turns into a fresh experience full of new friends, possible love interests, and self-discovery.
The show is also chock-full of sweeping visuals of Seoul’s crowded streets, candy-colored fashion, and Instagram-ready-looking food spreads.
For viewers who shy away from the type of humor that offers “second-hand embarrassment” on behalf of the characters, “XO, Kitty” might be too much. It’s no “Curb Your Enthusiasm;” it’s much sweeter and frothier than that acerbic show — but is full of cringe-worthy moments as Kitty gets into various disasters.
It’s also a prime example of the type of series that makes one wonder, “Who asked for this?”
While it’s true that “To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before” was a big hit in 2018 (reportedly raking in 80 million viewers at the time of premiere if Netflix’s opaque stats can be believed), that was a while ago.
We’ve long moved on from collectively swooning over that story’s hero, Peter Kavinsky (Noah Centineo).
But, perhaps astutely, this show isn’t trying to give us Peter and Lara Jean 2.0.
“Xo Kitty” has a new setting, and a more indirect love story, with a shuffling array of possible interests for Kitty, which makes it feel more chaotic and less focused than its predecessor.
“To All the Boys” was a straightforward, simplistic story, and that’s partly why it took the world by storm.
Nevertheless, “Xo, Kitty” is entertaining and cute. Nobody asked for it — but at least it’s got some charm.