REVIEW: Surprising no one, ‘Tall Girl 2’ is still awful

Protagonist Jodie walking down the hallway of her high school after becoming popular.
“Tall Girl 2,” Netflix’s newest original movie, ridiculously examines the difficulties the protagonist Jodi faces because of her height. (Photo courtesy of IMDB)

In 2019, Netflix released a generation-defining film — “Tall Girl,” chronicling the trials and tribulations of life as a wealthy, white, 6-foot-1-inch girl. 

On Friday, Netflix released just what the world needed most in this dark hour: a sequel. If you want something with the same level of quality and unwatchability as “Tall Girl,” “Tall Girl 2” does not disappoint.

“Tall Girl 2” begins with leads Jodi (Ava Michelle) and Jack Dunkleman (Griffin Gluck) — who, for some undefined reason, chooses to go by his last name — as they give a full, direct summary of the last movie directly to the camera (and thank God for that, as the first “Tall Girl” was just so hard to follow). 

The film then goes on to follow Jodi and Dunkleman’s new relationship following the events of the prior film. “Tall Girl 2” examines their breakup and will-they-won’t-they get back together tension and offers the redemption arc for former villains Kimmy (Clara Wilsey) and Stig (Luke Eisner). Most importantly, it highlights Jodi’s onslaught regarding her newfound popularity.

Yes, after Jodi’s bitter anti-bullying homecoming speech in one of the most hideous suits ever put on screen in the first “Tall Girl,” she has actually managed to become popular. She gets compliments on her cold shoulder sweatshirts in the halls, fields friendly students seeking moral and philosophical advice, and even gets the lead in the school play. However, with this popularity, she experiences something for the first time in her life — anxiety. 

Seriously — it appears that “Tall Girl 2” is suggesting that Jodi had never before experienced self-doubt or anxiety, which not only completely reframes the picture of the first movie but also asks a larger question for Jodi’s mental state before this. 

Was she a narcissist or was she just incredibly closed off from the world around her? Because there are very few explanations to someone never experiencing self-doubt before, especially if they just had an entire movie made about their insecurities.

Worsening this weird mental health implication, the writers just cannot write characters who behave like real people, such as having Jodi not understanding valid emotional reactions to her behavior or impulsively burning very prized, inflammable possessions, as the writers attempt to depict her trying to move on. 

It’s not just Jodi that this film presents in a poorly characterized way. Dunkleman’s obsession with Jodi grows to new heights, up to the point of him almost throwing away a several hundred dollar camera (like, fully throwing it away into a trash bag) out of a desire to cleanse himself after the breakup. 

Whereas the first movie focused on insecurities of height, this one now appears to be angling towards mental health in teens in general. Although a movie about that could be interesting, this is “Tall Girl 2,” so instead, everyone is just unhinged and unrelatable.

However, beyond the deep, foundational mental health shifts from the first movie, the familiar writing and technical construction of “Tall Girl 2” also manages to help the movie keep its off-kilter, unwatchable charm. The film continues to keep unnecessary, random plot lines and characters, such as an entire C-plot about Stig’s sister visiting from Sweden and Kimmy learning how to be nice.

Meanwhile, the audience only gets a very, very cursory acknowledgment of the political controversies of making a pitying movie about a wealthy, white, able-bodied, cishet girl from New Orleans in the form of a teacher asking, “What would you say to people who don’t think that being tall is a real problem? Getting a terminal illness, being homeless, not knowing where your next meal is coming from. Those are real problems . . . what do you have to complain about?” 

Of course, this question is privileged with a brief, 30-second response on the relativity of pain. Then the teacher is satisfied and the film moves on.

Furthermore, every scene is accompanied by a creeping, strange, ever-present score that sounds like it would be a backing track to the Episode app, and the production seems to have gone a little over-eagre on the color correction to try and distract the viewer from the mess happening in front of them. 

The costuming was still bland and unflattering and felt almost cruel to Michelle given how terribly they insisted on dressing her (though they kind of crushed it when it came to Gluck’s wardrobe). The actors try their best, but in this environment, and with their somewhat lacking skill sets, Michelle and many others come off as bland and distant. 

“Tall Girl 2” visibly lacks effort. It’s 97 minutes of a movie that you would happen to see on Disney Channel and think, “Wow, I miss old Disney. It’s really gone downhill.”

To be fair, it’s either a movie about a privileged girl who’s kind of tall or a nuanced, complex allegory for the experience and media representation of psychosis and deep psychological difficulties in white womanhood and the teen generation. But either way, it’s bad.