FROM JUSTIN TO KELLY (2003)
Starring Kelly Clarkson, Justin Guarini, Katerine Bailiss, Anika Noni Rose, Greg Siff, Brian Dietzen, Jason Yribar, Theresa San-Nicholas, Justin Gorence, Christopher Bryan, Kaitlyn Riley, Renee Robertson, Yamil Piedra, Marc Macaulay and Toi Svane Stepp.
Screenplay by Kim Fuller.
Directed by Robert Iscove.
Distributed by 20th Century Fox Pictures. 95 minutes. Rated PG.
It’s always a danger sign when a studio refuses to have preview showings of a film for critics. That almost always means that they want to slip a really bad film into the theaters and hope to make a little money before bad word-of-mouth starts to spread. Well, From Justin To Kelly was skulked into theaters with little fanfare and no press screenings in hope that the die-hard American Idol fans would jump to it. We will do anything for our readers, so at a great personal cost of $8.50 (closer to $15.00 after the stop at the snack bar) I actually went to see From Justin To Kelly, so that you won’t have to.
For those of you who don’t know (come on, is there anyone out there who doesn’t know?) Justin and Kelly are Justin Guarini and Kelly Clarkson, the runner-up and winner of the first season of TV talent contest American Idol. The thinking behind this movie musical lark might have been that people loved them on TV, why not see how they do on the big screen? Then again, more likely, the thinking was let’s get every last penny we can out of these two before the country stops caring and forgets about them.
The script was written by Kim Fuller, whose sole credential to write this is that he is the brother of American Idol creator Simon Fuller. (Hmmm…) The creators of From Justin To Kelly have said they are trying to make a movie like the Frankie Avalon and Annette Funicello beach party movies. While it is debatable how much the world has been waiting for a Beach Blanket Bingo revival, really, the film is much more like a blatant rewrite of Grease.
Kelly plays Kelly, a struggling bar singer who is talked into a trip to Miami’s South Beach for spring break. Justin plays Justin (love these character names!), king of the beach party circuit. The two meet, fall for each other, but pretend they don’t really feel anything, to seem cool around their friends. Finally, at the big end of vacation party they give in to true love and sing their allegiance to each other. There are occasional nods to modern culture (ooh, a romantic complication because of a text message!) but for the most part the movie is as old-fashioned as can be.
Okay, we’re not talking a deep story here, but that doesn’t necessarily make a movie unwatchable. The thing that can make something like this bearable is if they have interesting actors and singers (like Frankie and Annette or John and Olivia). Justin and Kelly are pretty good pop singers. The movie is jam-packed with about fifteen gloopy written-by-committee songs to show off our stars’ talent at oversinging. It also features a strangely unfunky version of K.C. & the Sunshine Band’s classic casual sex mantra “That’s the Way (I Like It).” (Though watching the aloof way it is performed, you get the feeling no one involved in the production of the film knew what the “it” in the title referred to.)
Sadly, Justin and Kelly aren’t particularly good actors. Also, for a couple that was rumored to be involved in real life, they have absolutely no physical chemistry. It might be relatively painless to sit through parts of this movie on cable, but don’t bother seeing it in the theater. (Which is, of course, a moot point, because by the time you read this review the movie will undoubtedly have disappeared from multiplexes.) The good news is that the apparent failure of this film means we probably won’t have to sit through From Clay to Ruben next summer. The bad news is that would have probably been a more interesting movie. (6/03)
Copyright ©2003 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved. Posted: July 28, 2003.