A follow-up film to Zoey 101, Zoey 102 follows Zoey (Jamie Lynn Spears), whose life has become a mess now that she’s 32. She can’t find a decent guy to date, barely hangs out with anyone, and struggles to advance her career no matter how hard she tries. To make matters worse, her high school friend Quinn (Erin Sanders) asks her to be the maid-of-honor at her and Logan’s (Matthew Underwood) wedding, which means she’ll have to constantly interact with the best man Chase (Sean Flynn), whom she fell in love with as a teenager.
The concept of making a Zoey 101 sequel film set decades later is an inherently flawed one. The show was very much about these teen characters and their middle and high school experiences, which are experiences most people put behind them after they’ve entered college. Realistically, many of these characters would’ve long forgotten each other by now, and Zoey’s preoccupation with a boy she dated more than a decade ago would be framed as concerning rather than charming.
A Zoey 101 sequel can’t be about Zoey just being an adult, though, dating someone new and hanging out with new friends, because it wouldn’t be a true sequel if she’s not regularly interacting with many of the show’s other characters. So of course, Zoey 102 settles with an exceptionally obvious path: a high school reunion in the form of a wedding.
To its credit, the film does show some self-awareness with its premise. In the beginning, a character tells Zoey, “It’s really gross how often you talk about high school,” making it clear to everyone that it knows how, in real life, this would be pitiful, and that every ounce of disbelief should be thrown out the window while watching.
The problem, though, is that even if you do push realism to the side, this still isn’t a good Zoey 101 sequel. Hire different actors and change the characters’ names and this could easily be a stand-alone wedding rom-com about a woman still pining over her high school boyfriend.
Most of the show’s characters don’t really get anything to do. With the exception of Zoey, we barely see what these characters’ lives are like now that they’re much older, how they ended up where they ended up since high school, what their struggles and insecurities are as adults, or even what Quinn and Logan’s relationship is like outside of the wedding. We don’t even know if this group remains friends after the wedding is over.
After all, some of these characters haven’t seen each other in a while, haven’t they? When that’s over, do they go back to being close friends again? Do they return to barely seeing each other? The film doesn’t answer that because it doesn’t care — all it cares about is if Zoey and Chase end up together again.
Even if Zoey and Chase are all you care about, there’s barely anything here to convince you they should be getting back together. When these two are on-screen together, they’re either being petty or talking about the past, which leads to the biggest reason why Zoey and Chase are so unbelievable as a couple this time around.
The only reason the film can give why these two should be a couple again is because they used to be in love back in high school. That’s just not enough. Zoey and Chase are older now, different people from who they were as teens, and they haven’t spoken to each other in years. This movie has to convince us that the older versions of these characters are just as perfect for each other as their younger versions were in order for the romance to work, which it just doesn’t do.
Zoey 102 feels a lot like an actual high school reunion: you spend around an hour or two having a mediocre time, feigning friendship with people you know you’ll never think about again afterward, and you end the night wishing you never came in the first place. It may be best to keep your happy memories of Zoey 101 intact and never find out what these characters are doing now that they’re in their 30s, because as it turns out, it’s really nothing remarkable.
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Zoey 102 is an instant example of an unnecessary reboot, as it has nothing interesting or noteworthy to offer fans of the show in terms of character development, continuity of the story, or even just a good plot with a well-developed romance.
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