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Review by Dustin Putman
½ star out of 4
For those living under a rock, "From Justin to Kelly" is the big-screen
spin-off of TV's "American Idol," a musical love story starring first
season's winner Kelly Clarkson and frizzy-haired runner-up Justin
Guarini. Although their characters share the same names as them, they
do not play themselves and the story they are in is entirely fictional.
Fictional not only because what happens isn't true, but because everything
that happens could never occur within the real world. Clarkson and
Guarini's goal of making a modern-day version of "Grease" is firmly
dashed by the time the first embarrassingly amateurish and forgettable
musical number occurs. "Grease" may have been nothing more than lightweight
cheese, but at least it was watchable and knew how to carry a tune.
Kelly (Kelly Clarkson) is a struggling singer in an underpopulated
Texas bar. Justin (Justin Guarini) is, well, not much of anything.
Along with her friends, the vixenish Alexa (Katherine Bailess) and
starry-eyed Kaya (Anika Noni Rose), and his best pals, the aspiring
hunk Brandon (Greg Siff) and nebbish Eddie (Brian Dietzen), Kelly
and Justin travel to Miami for the ultimate spring break and almost
instantly share a moment on the beach. It seems Kelly and Justin are
meant to be together, and would be if not for the catty Alexa, who
wants Justin all to herself.
Directed without much aplomb or anything else by Robert Iscove (2000's
"Boys and Girls"), "From Justin to Kelly" is about as terrible as
most audiences are probably expecting. Written by Kim Fuller, the
mastermind behind 1997's "Spice World," the film is clearly nothing
more than a chintzy attempt to cash in on the success of "American
Idol." No attempt is made to develop characters, test the acting abilities
of its would-be superstars, or even create a premise that makes much
sense. None of this would matter, of course, if the song and dance
numbers offered any sort of flighty entertainment value, which they
don't. The choreography is flat and lifeless; the pop songs are thoroughly
disposable, mass-produced trash; and the lip-synching and sound mix
have to be some of the worst ever for a big studio motion picture.
Some of the musical numbers are so dull and asinine, in fact, that
the film realizes it and cuts away from them almost before they get
started. Others, such as a climactic beach-set cover of "That's the
Way (I Like It)," never seem to end.
Justin Guarini and Kelly Clarkson are the main human attractions,
as the rest of the cast are no-names who will likely never be heard
from again. Guarini is just plain creepy to look at, while Clarkson
shows some star quality that may one day be put to use in a better
movie (but don't count on it). Save for a sweet duet near the end,
called "Anytime," singers Guarini and Clarkson ironically seem more
comfortable when they are just speaking dialogue rather than when
they are called upon to lip-synch yet another piece of pop drivel.
Together, they fail to ignite even the faintest tinge of romantic chemistry.
2001's "Moulin Rouge" and 2002's "Chicago" may have helped to repopularize
the movie musical with modern audiences, but "From Justin to Kelly"
is so wretched it may pull the rising genre into an early retirement.
The plot's conflict is stupid and condescending, the type that could
be solved in five minutes if the characters were written with any
sort of sense. They aren't, and so unlucky viewers are forced to endure
almost 90 minutes of inane, turgid hogwash. Even the title makes zero
sense. "From Justin to Kelly?" "From Big-Screen Bust to the Fiery
Depths of Hell" would have been more fitting.
Copyright © 2003 Dustin Putman