Anna Cathcart returns in “XO, Kitty.” Photo courtesy of Netflix
LOS ANGELES, May 18 (UPI) — Fans of the three To All the Boys movies will find much to enjoy in the spinoff series XO, Kitty, premiering Thursday on Netflix. If new viewers like what XO, Kitty has to offer, they can easily find the three films on Netflix, too.
Kitty (Anna Cathcart) was the younger sister of To All the Boys protagonist Lara Jean (Lana Condor). Now that Lara Jean is off to college, the show focuses on Kitty’s love life and high school.
Kitty has kept in touch with Dae (Choi Min-yeong) since she met him during her trip to South Korea in To All the Boys: Always and Forever. When Kitty earns a scholarship to the Korean Independent School of Seoul, she enrolls for her junior year to be with him.
Along with furthering the experience of Kitty’s first love, she makes other friends and acquaintances at school. That includes Yuri Han (Gia Kim) is the heir to a hotel empire and daughter of the school principal, Jina (Yunjin Kim).
Min Ho (Sang Heon Lee) is mean to Kitty when they first meet, but his roommate, Q, (Anthony Keyvan) is nicer. Kitty plans to surprise Dae with her enrollment at KISS, which any viewer can imagine won’t go well for her. Always call ahead, folks.
The show builds to a surprise that won’t be at all shocking to experienced drama viewers. However, if this is young viewers’ first experience with such complications, it makes a sound introduction.
XO, Kitty also does that annoying thing in which every time someone is about to explain the situation to Kitty, something interrupts, so Kitty’s misunderstanding is prolonged. Again, maybe this show is someone’s first experience with that tried-and-true formula.
When in doubt, characters speak in Korean, so Kitty can’t understand the explanation to her dilemma, which this review also will not spoil.
Even if one does anticipate what’s coming, high school still brings many other suitors and complications to Kitty’s first love. Once classes begin, academic challenges are as dominant in Kitty’s life, with teachers ranging from stern to overly friendly.
Clashes with roommates are also among the relatable milestone moments Kitty must overcome.
Most importantly, Kitty is visiting Korea to reconnect with her late mother, who also went to KISS. That was a thread for Lara Jean in the movies, too, and it’s a much bigger subplot than any teen drama.
Kitty continues to play matchmaker for others as if it’s her super power. The show addresses Korea’s unforgiving culture related to relationships. Gay characters also note that while Korea may be less accepting than the United States, some countries are even more hostile.
Each of the new characters get to be varying degrees of both brash and vulnerable. Yuri and Min Ho are the most brash, but it’s good that even they demonstrate at least two extremes, not just one caricature.
Perhaps after 10 episodes and further seasons, they’ll reveal even more layers and sides.
The endearing young cast embraces the extremes of teen reaction to embarrassment. In which Kitty finds herself during adorable situations, overhearing gossip and getting caught reacting, or doing pratfalls.
Some of those scenarios involve extreme coincidences, but that is the fun of a sitcom.
Such subplots also entail quite a bit of exposition about the Han Hotel business and merger with the Miller chain. Yuri’s relationship gets roped into a scandal with her father, which is not healthy for Yuri or for her partner.
XO, Kitty addresses the financial struggles some students face while the wealthy Hans can throw money at their problems. One subplot about the Hans giving a poor student a job is reminiscent of Seinfeld, when George Costanza’s pitched a sitcom in which the lead is forced to become someone’s butler.
For fans of the movies, Kitty occasionally gives updates on Lara Jean and Peter, though not in every single episode like the Marvel shows make sure to reference the movies every week. Kitty’s parents (John Corbett and Sarya Blue) can also appear occasionally in phone calls with the United States.
XO, Kitty continues the teen romantic-comedy of To All the Boys with the next generation. It’s no more or less predictable than its predecessors but delivers a relevant and entertaining tale for its target audience.
Fred Topel, who attended film school at Ithaca College, is a UPI entertainment writer based in Los Angeles. He has been a professional film critic since 1999, a Rotten Tomatoes critic since 2001 a member of the Television Critics Association since 2012 and the Critics Choice Association since 2023. Read more of his work in Entertainment.