So, how bad could it be? No worse than sitting in an empty room listening to the tickings of a very slow clock. "From Justin to Kelly" is a dull but fairly harmless film, about what we might expect from two stars spawned by the TV show "American Idol." The movie is billed as a romantic musical comedy. You coulda fooled me.
Since I've never watched an episode of "American Idol," I can't imagine what Justin Guarini or Kelly Clarkson did to win. It surely couldn't have been singing, dancing, or acting, unfortunately the talents they needed to carry off this motion picture. They both seem like sweet kids, but they're not singers, dancers, or actors by any stretch of the imagination. I have the feeling the only reason they got a deal to make a $12,000,000 movie is because Fox studio executives wanted to capitalize on the pair's instant celebrity and strike while the iron was hot, so to speak. What the studio didn't count on was that people who watch television don't necessarily go to the movies. The film bombed.
At least they could have given the pair of young performers something to work with. Clarkson plays a country-western singer from Texas who is persuaded by her two girlfriends to head for Miami on Spring Break. Guarini plays a young fellow from Pennsylvania who is likewise persuaded by two pals to head on out to Florida. Once they all arrive, they meet, they sing, they dance in huge, awkwardly choreographed scenes along the water, they meet Frankie and Annette, and they play bingo on beach blankets. Or something like that.
If the movie's title reminds you of a line from a picture postcard, the movie's plot is about as empty. The hijinks strike one as purposely derived from an old "Beach Party" flick expressly as a subject for parody, but there's no satire involved; it's all done straight. And the songs sound right out of the disco era of "Saturday Night Fever," with the same bland uniformity. With nothing for the youngsters to do but wrestle with a non-plot and insipid music, the movie depends upon its two leads for some kind of chemistry, which, needless to say, never develops.
Neither Guarini nor Clarkson bear much resemblance to Hollywood stars. Guarini is tall and slender with a shock of curly hair sticking out in all directions, giving him the look of a dust mop on legs. One can see him, perhaps, sometime in the future playing the gawky sidekick in direct-to-video rip-offs of "American Pie." Clarkson is fresh faced and cheerful but rather ordinary in overall appearance. She seems like the sort of woman who in a few years might become the frumpy roadhouse singer her movie character is at the beginning of this picture. Since neither Guarini nor Clarkson display much more than amateur musical or acting skills, their presence in "From Justin to Kelly" does not bode well for their future in show business. They've had their fifteen minutes. Now what?
Justin's two friends, Eddie (Brian Dietzen) and Brandon (Greg Siff), are a stereotypic computer nerd and stereotypic party animal; Kelly's two friends, Alexa (Katherine Bailess) and Kaya (Anika Noni Rose), are a stereotypic jealous, backstabbing bitch and a stereotypic sweet, fun-loving young thing. They do nothing to liven up the proceedings.
Moreover, given that the film involves acres of flesh everywhere and things like whipped-cream bikini contests, there is no sex in the picture whatever. Indeed, the very thought of sex among these apparently virginal twenty-year-olds never seems to cross their mind. They mostly get their kicks by holding hands, taking moonlight walks, and singing a lot. Maybe singing is some form of sexual substitute for them. If so, they're not having a very good time; their singing is dreadful.
Face it: The film is simply embarrassing.
The picture is presented in two aspect ratios on flip sides of a single disc. One side contains the theatrical-release widescreen, measuring an approximately 1.74:1 anamorphic ratio. On the other side is a fullscreen version at 1.33:1. But wouldn't you know it? The fullscreen version cuts out no information right or left and, in fact, reveals more material on the top and bottom of the frame. Consequently, I can only assume the fullscreen to be the original camera-negative ratio from which the widescreen was later matted.
In any case, the overall image is generally soft and fuzzy. In darker areas of the screen one notices a soft grain, and in closely spaced horizontal lines the occasional moiré effect. Once the beach scenes open up, the clarity improves, and colors in bright daylight are actually quite good.
What difference does it make? Loud, pounding bass is loud, pounding bass whether it's reproduced in Dolby Digital 5.1 or old-fashioned mono. In this instance, it's DD 5.1, which renders every syllable the characters utter in utmost purity, much to the audience's dismay. The surround speakers bloom during crowd scenes, like at beaches and night clubs, and musical ambiance is constantly augmented. Nothing helps.
Yeah, yeah, I know, you can't wait to run out and buy the disc, but I've saved the best for last. Not only can you watch the original, eighty-one minute theatrical version of the movie, the one that ran in my local movie house for a good three days, you can choose alternatively to watch the brand-new, never-before-seen, ninety-minute, extended version that includes two additional dance numbers. I watched only the extended version, during which time I had no idea what the two added dance numbers were until I read the Bonus Features notes. To have found out any other way would have required that I also watch the original version for comparison, a prospect too dire to contemplate. For those interested, the two new numbers are "Brighter Star" and "With Love From Me to You."
Anyway, among the other extras on this Special Edition disc are an audio commentary with Kelly, Justin, and director Robert Iscove that couldn't be any worse than watching the movie without it; two behind-the-scenes featurettes, "Center Stage," three minutes, and "Singers Who Dance...Dancers Who Sing," six minutes; a "From Justin to Kelly" scrapbook, eight minutes; three deleted scenes; and a one-minute gag reel. Please, no jokes about gagging on the film itself. Lastly, there are twenty-eight scene selections, English as the only spoken-language choice, and English and Spanish subtitles.
Starring a pair of young people with limited talents and featuring a story line straight from despair, "From Justin to Kelly" is little more than an extended MTV music video, produced as quickly as possible before the memory of its "American Idol" stars faded from memory. Boring story, boring music, boring people. Could become a camp classic.
I usually avoid reading or listening to other people's opinions of a film before posting my own, but between the time I wrote my review of "From Justin to Kelly" and decided to post it, I heard from several friends about how bad it was. Prompted by curiosity, I checked the Internet Movie Database to see what ordinary viewers thought about it and found it had received the second-lowest reader rating of any film ever voted on there, a 1.5/10. For the record, I don't think "From Justin to Kelly" is one of the worst films ever made; incalculably boring, yes, but nothing to make you want to throw your shoe through the screen. Now, "Freddy Got Fingered" is a bad film. It was a big-star fiasco that insulted one's intelligence in every shot. "From Justin to Kelly" is merely inept, clumsy, and tedious. In my book, at least, there's a difference.