I am on a quest. My quest is to ensure that no one is subjected to the torment I have endured on account of this, the most vapid "musical" I have ever seen. This ridiculous movie, this horrific waste of precious film and of two American Idols' time and of my $5.50, this looming monstrosity must not be allowed to propagate. The title is From Justin to Kelly, and the movie/musical tells the tale of two regular people (played by American Idols) who meet by chance on a wild spring break in Florida and discover that they love one another.
First, let me explain my distaste with this atrocious travesty of a film must perish (this will be brief; there is barely anything to criticize). Then I will explain my secret sneaky plan to destroy it. (This plan has succeeded splendidly! See endnote.)
The characters are laughably nonsensical; worse, they are flat as a middle school choir; they evade all chances at development; they are stupid. There is a trio of boys and a trio of girls and a gaggle of assorted (only marginally less) minor characters:
- Justin (Justin Guarini, the runner-up of last year's hip American Idol contest) is a raffish, lovable college boy and co-founder of "BR&J", an organization which holds parties in Florida and apparently pays his tuition. Justin is trying to "go straight" and "be a nice guy" -- for Kelly! How sweet of him.
- Brandon (Greg Siff) is a party animal. Brandon makes up the "BR" in "BR&J", and he certainly does at least two-thirds of the work; he is very excited about the prospect of judging a whipped cream bikini contest, and shows similar enthusiasm throughout the movie. In fact, he always displays the same amount of enthusiasm. He's just an outgoing kind of guy.
- Eddie (Brian Dietzen) is a super-nerd who tags along with BR&J (how he met them and what relationship they have is never explained) to south Florida because he wants to hook up with a girl he met on the Internet. Hilarity and high jinks ensue; because neither of them has an Internet connection or a phone, he and the girl wander past one another in several randomly-placed scenes. In another fifteen minutes of exposition near the end that served no thematic purpose, it is revealed that Eddie is even a vaguely sensitive individual.
- Kelly (Kelly Clarkson, the winner of last year's superfly American Idol contest) is a down-to-earth waitress and a "nice" girl. We know this because the screenwriter, Kim Fuller, wrote her lines whining about objectification of women and misogyny about every ten minutes. (Note that screenwriter Kim Fuller is the author of the Spice Girls and S Club 7 movies and the brother of Simon Fuller, whom RalphyK has so eloquently described as "the monster behind Pop/American Idol".) Kelly's friends convince her to drive them to Florida and then provide a negative and certainly unhealthy environment of mindless fun. Kelly experiences instant, insatiable attraction when she sees Justin, but her meddling friend makes some poor choices which threaten the relationship...
- Kaya (Anika Noni Rose) is one of Kelly's "best friends" (1). The best advice she has to offer comes when Kelly thinks Justin has blown her off; she decides that she and Kelly must become PARTY ANIMALS if they are to attract Justin's attention! Woo! Also, Kaya has a fling with a local waiter named Carlos (more on that later).
- Alexa (Katherine Bailess) is a twenty-year-old Cruella de Vil, only with a heterosexual bent rather than a puppy fetish. Her friends call her a big "party girl", but if the movie's characters had called her what she is (slut; "ho"; backstabbing, lying wench), this movie would probably have not gotten the PG rating which its nearly-obscene dance sequences hardly merit. Alexa interferes with Justin and Kelly's relationship through every means possible; jealous that Kelly is capable of being attracted to one boy for more than ten seconds (more on this later), she wants Justin for herself. I know the type, and this neurotic characterization was pulled off quite well--then utterly ruined by the Hollywood ending.
- Luke (Christopher Bryan) is a barfly boy of about twenty who hits on Kelly at her place of employment. He isn't bright or handsome, and Alexa uses him as a pawn midway through the movie when, after she tells Justin that Kelly has a boyfriend, she calls Luke and makes him drive down to Florida to prove it. To, uh, avenge her honor, or something, the two of them end up on hovercraft in a thrilling, death-defying, and utterly plot-unrelated race which, happily, ends in bloodshed. Luke goes home after Kelly clarifies that she doesn't want to hang out with his creepy stalker self.
- Carlos (Jason Yribar) is Kaya's love interest. He doesn't like her at first because she's just another vacationer and is going to leave him within a week; he's got a native's resentment. He works at a beachside cafe until Kaya comes to visit him during work, whines at his boss, and gets him fired. Later he finds another job, also as a waiter. His life seems endlessly cyclical and he is doubtless doomed to eternal servitude in the food service industry, but he still knows how to have a good time. It's all very much like a week in the life of The Sims.
- Officer Cutler (Theresa San-Nicholas) has an annoying tendency to pop up whenever Brandon has done something illegally (for instance, he takes bets on the aforementioned hovercraft race and she seizes the ill-gotten money). She is a stern lawmaker, and we are therefore surprised when on the last day of spring break (everyone has the same break, see) she hooks up with Brandon. The line about handcuffs which results again makes me question the PG nature of this film, breeding kinky 12-year olds not being among the MPAA's (stated) nefarious objectives.
Yikes. Sorry, Justin and Kelly (whose name comes second although she won the contest), but maybe you should stick to singing. The musical moments in this movie are very poorly placed. (Picture Carlos leading Kaya into a small, dingy, deserted warehouse in the middle of nowhere that is suddenly filled with partygoers and rousing songs. If you're still not convinced, imagine Justin and Kelly singing a duet of devotion in an apparently 'borrowed' boat--oh, and then the sun suddenly sets, even though the song started at about noon.)
Placement isn't the only problem--the repertoire is vapid and pop-py and not even very musically inspired. Plus, it's glaringly obvious that everyone in lip synching their songs. They are boring and repetitive; to kill time, I found myself comparing this musical's plot with that of Pippin--you'd be surprised how much they have in common, but these margins are too small to contain my revelations. The only mainstream musical movie I've seen recently, Chicago, rose to the challenge of competence and pulled it off with much more class. (Well, to be pedantic, they actually cut "Class", but it was still a good movie.) The acting is terrible and the songs suck--don't go. But wait, there's more...
Poor Plot, Pitiful Premise
Very little in this movie makes much sense, but the biggest, most glaring hole is the misuse of technology. Eddie the geek didn't bring a computer and can't find an Internet cafe to contact the love of his Internet life (Lizzie, played by Toi Svane Stepp). Alexa the tramp gives Justin her cell phone number and claims it's Kelly's; she leads him astray with malicious SMS messages. The unconvincing part is that Justin never wants to actually talk to Kelly, the love of his life, on her cell phone. Uh-huh.
Besides that, the contortions this movie exerts upon the rather nonsensical notion of "love at first sight" are simply unacceptable. Eddie the Internet pimp and his fifteen minutes of expounding on the benefits of being a sensitive man are far more convincing than the stanza during a song that confirmed Justin and Kelly's endless and boundless devotion.
Worst of all, the set-up of the movie, depicting a spring break fling, means that in the end, only coldhearted Alexa had the right attitude. Maybe it's best that beach party movies celebrate beaches and partying and avoid the possibility of meaningful relationships, which are beyond this writer's abilities. Although in the end, Kelly eventually finds out Alexa's elaborate plot of jealousy and deception, and Alexa finally reunites the two lovebirds (evidently regaining status as "best friend" in the process), everyone ignores an essential problem which remains. At the end of the movie, the characters' situations are simple: Justin and Kelly are madly in some sort of love; Carlos and Kaya are happy together; Eddie has finally found his Internet girlfriend and we last saw them making out; Brandon has wandered off with Officer Cutler; and Alexa gets to be surrounded by boys during a musical number which clearly suggests that she's gotten a little sumpin sumpin' out of the adventure. But all of these people are going home. Without seeing each other (and apparently, if Justin's track record with SMS is any indication, without calling one another), these particular long distance relationships are doomed to failure. At the very end, Alexa's ideology and the hedonistic spirit of today's youth has won out over all the forces of good which conspired to make this movie typical Hollywood tripe. Unfortunately, whatever the flavor, it's still tripe. Watch the movie and you'll agree; better yet, take my word for it. You'll thank me later.
My Personal Quest
My crusade to keep this movie from viewers' eyes and to avenge my wounded pocketbook must not be confined to warning selected friends and filling nodegel with dire admonitions. How, then, can this evil be contained? The solution is simple: From Justin to Kelly must become the lowest rated movie on the Internet Movie Database. IMDB receives over 15 million hits per month, and countless moviegoers rely on its judgment when deciding whether or not to see a movie. The lowest weighted rating From Justin to Kelly has achieved so far has been 1.5 out of 10; it managed to rank #1 on IMDB's bottom 100 films (see the list at http://us.imdb.com/bottom_100_films).
You can do your part in eternally marking this movie with the sigil of shame by registering at IMDB (http://us.imdb.com/register/personalize) and giving From Justin to Kelly a rating of 1 (http://us.imdb.com/Ratings?0339034). Remember, the fate of the free market depends on your speedy action. Every hour you delay might mean another $5.50 in the coffers of Fox Movies. (If my local experience is any indication, these coffers are probably filling rather slowly already. Going on the opening night, we were alone except for two groups of twelve-year-olds.)
Less than 15 hours after this posting, my goal of placing this movie in the list of worst films had already been achieved. As of 11 July 2003, From Justin to Kelly had accumulated 1129 votes and maintains a total "weighted average" of 1.6. It then ranked as the BOTTOM RATED MOVIE on IMDB. Thanks to all who voted for your help in putting this scourge in its place! No more updates for a while -- there's a tussle with Manos and Gigli for #1 but it's likely this "movie" is going to linger among the worst of the worst for quite a while.
1 MovieWeb - 'FROM JUSTIN TO KELLY' production Notes. http://movieweb.com/movie/justinkelly/prod.html
2 Full Cast and Crew for From Justin to Kelly (2003). http://us.imdb.com/Credits?0339034