Eric D. Snider

From Justin to Kelly

You see everything Hollywood produces, you see a lot of bad movies. Hollywood produces bad movies the way plants produce oxygen. But with most bad movies, you can tell they at least sounded like good ideas at one point, perhaps very early on, and were simply mishandled. Or you get the feeling that, even if the premise was lame, in the hands of the right director, writer or star, it could have been salvaged.

So it is with some interest that we observe "From Justin to Kelly," a film that everyone knew would be bad from the very moment it was announced. "Let's take the two top winners on 'American Idol' -- two individuals who have never expressed an interest in nor talent for acting -- and put them in a film together!" went the pitch. And immediately, all sentient beings within earshot knew that, as sure as the sun hangs in the sky, it would be a bad movie.

There was no way it could have been otherwise. The notion behind it is as contrived, forced, manipulated and fake as any film ever made. Star vehicles -- films produced because a star was available, not because someone had a good idea for a story -- are loathsome enough. And this is a star vehicle that doesn't even have any stars in it.

Kelly Clarkson and Justin Guarini do not play themselves, although their characters are named Kelly and Justin, and they do come from their real-life home states of Texas and Pennsylvania, respectively. And Kelly is a would-be singer, and Justin does like to dance. OK, so maybe they are playing themselves. Does it matter? I mean, how would you know? If a piece of white bread lies on a counter and doesn't do anything, is it playing itself, or is it playing a fictional slice of bread that happens to resemble itself?

At any rate, Kelly and Justin are strangers who converge on South Florida with their friends for spring break. One does not get the impression any of the six attend school, so I am uncertain what they are taking a spring break FROM; nonetheless, they arrive ready for a week of tame, PG-rated debauchery.

Kelly's friends are Kaya (Anika Noni Rose), who is African-American and mildly intelligent, and Alexa (Katherine Bailess), who is blond and, it is implied, would have sex with a walrus if it bought her a drink first. Kelly is the "prude" among them, complaining often about the way women are degraded at spring break in Florida. Still, she reasons, it is better than serving drinks to cowboys, which is what she does for a living back in Texas.

Justin's friends are Brandon (Greg Siff), who couldn't be more of a tool if he tried, and Eddie (Brian Dietzen), who is an incurable nerd, indicated by his wearing glasses and using sunscreen. Brandon and Justin have a business that sponsors beach parties, yet they are unaware that having a beach party requires getting an event permit first. Eddie is tagging along because he plans to meet for the first time a woman he's chatted online with for a year.

In a jarring development, the film becomes a musical when, 10 minutes into it, everyone begins singing and dancing on the beach. Like every song in the film, even this number's subject matter is unmemorable. I jotted in my notepad, however, that terms such as "rock," "party," "have fun" and "love" were used liberally, each in context meaning "have sex." The word "sex" is never used, nor is actual sexual activity implied, nor does anyone even drink very much. This is all to preserve the PG rating, thus ensuring anyone who might possibly want to see their "American Idol" friends in a film will be free to do so.

So instead of having sex, the characters merely dance as if they're going to, right there in the sand, even though they are strangers. This is how Justin and Kelly meet -- I believe it is their pelvises that are actually introduced first, followed by their loins, and then their hands. Eventually, their faces address one another, but they are busy lip-synching a generic pop anthem, so I don't know what kind of impact they could have had.

Apparently it was great, though, because after that chance encounter, both hope to meet up again. They do so, in a women's restroom. (Don't ask.) Kelly gives Justin her number, but he loses it immediately -- literally, within two seconds of receiving it -- and is too stupid, I guess, to ask her for it again, even though she's still standing about 10 feet away. This opens the door for Kelly's evil friend Alexa to sabotage the blossoming romance so that she can have Justin for herself, presumably so that she can bite off his head and devour him like the human-sized cricket she is.

Later, Kelly's non-boyfriend from back home shows up, and within one minute of screen time, he and Justin are in a hovercraft race to win Kelly's heart. Meanwhile, Kaya meets a Cuban fellow who works in a restaurant, and Brandon keeps having run-ins with a pretty beach cop, and Eddie does a lot of stupid nerdy crap. And through it all, they occasionally sing, backed up by whichever good-looking extras were standing around at the time.

No one is a bigger fan of musicals than I am, but I have never had a harder time suspending my disbelief in people spontaneously breaking into song than I did here. Perhaps it is because each time someone sings, there is no REASON for it, and when they do sing, they don't SAY anything. And the songs themselves are unoriginal and bland.

The director is Robert Iscove, who has two Freddie Prinze Jr. films under his belt. The writer is Kim Fuller, who brought us "Spice World." Kelly and Justin are approximately as likable as they were on "American Idol," but predictably have absolutely no chemistry as a romantic couple, and very little screen presence when they are not standing on a stage, singing.

Imagine "MTV Beach House: The Movie" and you've got "From Justin to Kelly." Add up every person who appears in the film, including the extras, and you will find zero percent body fat and not a single unattractive face. It is a sand-encrusted tribute to chaste heterosexuality, a witless, unwatchable affront to all that is creative and clever in the world. What's worse, everyone involved surely knew it would be this bad from the moment it began. Shame on them all.

Grade: F

Rated PG, a couple mild profanities, some innuendo

1 hr., 20 min.

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