What the Hell Were They Thinking?!

Contractual obligations: ain’t they a bitch? Kelly Clarkson and Justin Guarini star in From Justin to Kelly.

From Justin to KellyCast of Characters:
Kelly Taylor – Kelly Clarkson
Justin Bell – Justin Guarini

Alexa – Katherine Bailess
Eddie – Brian Dietzen
Brandon – Greg Siff
Kaya – Anika Noni Rose

Director – Robert Iscove
Screenplay – Kim Fuller
Producer – Robert Engelman
Rated PG for thematic elements, sensuality and brief language

This is a timeless tale of two lovers. Boy – Justin Bell (Justin Guarini) – meets girl – Kelly Taylor (Kelly Clarkson) – on spring break. Miami crowd breaks out into song and dance. Everyone’s happy. Boy dances with girl and immediately falls in love with her.

I mean, why wait to make sure the glass slipper fits? Just go for it.

Wait. Hold on. They’re breaking out into song again.

Boy wants girl, but her jealous friend wants him, so sneaky little hijinks ensue, and when that happens girl…

Ah – dammit. They’re they go again.

Anyway, boy likes girl. Girl likes boy. Girl’s friend does something to make boy look like a dick. Girl’s sad. Boy’s sad. Girl’s friend feels bad. She helps get them back together. Boy’s happy. Girl’s happy. They share a kiss. Everyone’s happy. Aww.

… And then they break out into song and dance again.

As mentioned at the beginning, this film all boils down to two words: contractual obligations. At the very least, that’s the excuse Kelly’s running with nowadays. American Idol was such a hit TV reality series from the moment it began, the powers that be (Simon Fuller) apparently saw dollar signs and thought it’d be a great idea to take season one champ Kelly Clarkson and runner-up Justin Guarini – two people who never expressed any interest in acting – and have them headline their own movie.

What could possibly go wrong?

Well, who knew a film featuring so many happy, smiling, dancing and excited people could spike the suicide rate to epic heights?

Now, I’m not averse to the musical. The second greatest movie ever made (second poster from the top-left on my site background, for the record) is The Wizard of Oz. There’s also The Sound of Music, Mary Poppins, Fiddler on the Roof, pretty much any Disney animated classic and Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street. The sign of any great musical is if you take the musical numbers out and you still have a great story. Take the musical numbers out of From Justin to Kelly, and you have the rich in narrative plot summary up above.

It’s written stupidly ’cause that’s really the best way to describe the punishment you’re laying on your eyes.

This movie’s horrible. So horrible the Razzies (the Oscars of crappy movies) gave Travis Payne and his seizure-simulating choreography an honorary Governor’s Award for worst choreography. But, hey – at least they got all those Teen Choice Awards nominations for Choice Movie Chemistry and Choice Movie Breakout star for both Clarkson and Guarini – woohoo!!

Seriously, kids, don’t do drugs. It impairs your judgment.

I can understand why this was made. This is simply American Idol capitalizing on their success by giving the moviegoing audience 80-90 minutes of manufactured crap: manufactured songs, manufactured music, manufactured script, even the poster with Clarkson and Guarini smiling all dopey back at us could make Happy the dwarf wanna drop an electric toaster on himself in the bathtub. What I don’t get, though, is how this could cost $12 million to make. This has the production value of a local Dairy Queen staff putting on a series of flash mobs for their unsuspecting and soon to be non-returning customers.

Seriously, where the hell did all that money go?

This gem was written by Kim Fuller, who also brought us Spice World. Your memory might’ve finally repressed that tragedy, but I’m bringing it back. Here, we get such fleshed out characterization such as Kelly’s manipulative friend Alexa – who’d probably screw a broom handle if push came to shove – and Justin’s friends, Eddie – who’s a nerd and the film stresses that point by giving him glasses to wear – and Brandon – who’s easily the biggest tool to ever come out of Pittsburgh. Justin’s not a tool, but he’s clearly the biggest idiot out of the bunch when scheming Alexa gives him her number, and he keeps texting her thinking she’s Kelly. At some point, anyone with half a functioning brain would give calling a try. Kelly’s the sweetheart out of the group, and she insists that she wants nothing to do with the sleaziness of spring break. She’s looking for something meaningful, and she hammers that virtuous point home after bumping and grinding the hell out of her pelvis against Justin’s in the film’s first musical number.

Keep in mind, Kelly is the prude out of the group.

I can’t beat up on Kelly too much. She seems like a doll in real life and appears to be happy with her music career and personal life nowadays. That said, she and Justin have as good a chemistry as Clark Gable and Vivien Leigh. Yeah, that’s right.

That is, after they both had a lobotomy. You didn’t let me finish.

Meanwhile, at a Citgo in Pittsburgh, Justin’s attending another free DVD signing, wondering where the hell those 15 minutes went to.

Not much, if any, of this story makes sense. Justin loses Kelly’s number literally seconds after receiving it from her and doesn’t quite realize it wouldn’t be that hard just to ask for it again (refer back to my “biggest idiot” point about him). Eddie has a subplot involving an online date he’s soon to meet, but he ends up meeting the date’s pissed off boyfriend. Within two minutes of the boyfriend threatening to clean Eddie’s clock, Eddie not only has talked this guy out of killing him, the guy looks to him and says, “Your right… Say you wanna get a beer and talk?” Oh, and there’s a hovercraft boat duel between Justin and one of Kelly’s Texan friends who’s been crushing on her for the longest time.

… Yep.

The biggest head-scratcher here, though, is just how unnecessary the musical format is for this film. Great musicals don’t need the music, yet they still add something to the film and seamlessly blend in with the story. This film needs the musical numbers, ’cause without them no one would be able to make it through this film without lunging themselves off a highway bridge. However, the moments where they break down into song are so jarring and unintentional hilarious, it not only requires a suspension of your disbelief like never before, it requires the suspension of your entire brain. Plus, there’s something to be said about great musicals and their songs longevity. To this day, people still remember Somewhere Over the Rainbow, Follow the Yellow Brick Road, Some Day My Prince Will Come, Heigh-Ho, When You Wish Upon a Star, My Favorite Things, Do-Re-Mi, etc. I kid you not, I actually forgot whatever the hell Justin and Kelly were singing about halfway through the song.

While this isn’t as steamy and titillating as From Ruben to Clay or as prone to cause bloodbath riots amongst teenage girls as From David to David, From Justin to Kelly still manages to be quite an endurance test, with those who pass deserving a presidential medal, even sainthood. It’s the type of movie so appalling at first sight, you find yourself cussing out even the gaffers and caterers involved. You’re due for your share of laughs from this, but they’ll mostly be derivative of the question marks dancing – just as neurotically as the characters in the film, of course – around your head.

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