From Justin to Kelly
review by Gregory Avery, 27 June 2003

To get first things out of the way first, yes, it is truly awful.

From Justin to Kelly is an attempt to do a modern-day equivalent to the 1960s beach party movies, with their light, disposable plotlines and goofy atmosphere and sense of humor, only, here, with hip-hop music, the kind of heave-and-jerk choreography that turns dancers into robots, and cast members who are wearing a whole lot of nothing. I don't consider myself to be a prude, and my high-school class had different and more relaxed values than our parents did, but there were moments during this movie where I found myself surprised to be watching actors walking around wearing outfits that made them virtually unclad, especially since this is a movie aimed at a fairly young audience. When the vixenish, back-stabbing Alexa (Katherine Bailess) exclaims, "You think Kelly has what I have?," one look at the bikini top that she barely has on provides the answer to that question really fast. And it was definitely a mistake to cast Greg Siff in a supporting role opposite the male lead, Justin Guarini -- Siff's pecs and ab muscles (along with a couple of other things) are hanging-out in almost every one of his scenes, while Justin, for whatever reason, is thoroughly covered in polo shirts and T-shirts throughout. It reminded me of the anecdote where Groucho Marx, after seeing Cecil B. DeMille's Samson and Delilah, said something to the effect that the only thing that was really wrong with the movie was that Victor Mature had a bigger bust than Hedy Lamarr. If anything, From Justin to Kelly confirms that we are indeed living in the time of the Cult of the Flesh, a landscape of the bronzed and bulbous, a desert of self-absorption where people exhibit themselves without care or concern over how tacky or déclassé they may actually appear to be.

However, criticizing this movie -- and less kind-hearted souls will surely be trampling all over it from now until the end of the year -- is, as David Denby wrote about Xanadu back in 1980, like shooting arrows into a ghost. This is the type of movie where drinks spill on people in order to create plot turns. There's loads of dialogue to hoot over ("Hey, Justin! You gotta get us into the Margarita Madness party!" "See ya at the bikini contest!" "She's one bonnet shy of Amish!"). There are plenty of songs, but the only memorable one is -- my stomach be still -- a climatic rendition of the ulcerous Seventies song "That's the Way I Like It." I have not seen the American Idol TV show and I've only seen the tail end of a music video Kelly Clarkson made for her new album, so I'm coming to Clarkson and Guarini fresh. Clarkson has screen presence, and she definitely can sing (although the filmmakers fumble her big song number near the end) -- she has the unique gift of being able to deliver a song powerfully without looking like she's trying hard, and I would be interested in seeing where she goes from here. Guarini does not have much of a screen presence (which is probably why he's constantly upstaged by Siff), sings passably (at least, here), and, most unfortunately, does not click onscreen as a romantic lead with Clarkson. Grease was not the best-made movie musical, but a lot of people were willing to forget that because John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John worked well together as a screen couple.

The folks who made From Justin to Kelly don't seem to know how to put a movie together, and the film has been dingily photographed -- in one scene, Justin and Kelly sail into a sunset that's supposed to be golden but instead looks greasy and smoggy. There's no explanation why Alexa spends the entire movie trying to sabotage things between Justin and Kelly -- she wants Justin for herself, but Lord knows why (unless she has a thing for guys with really, really frizzy hair). There's a scene set during a whipped-cream bikini contest where we never get a good look at the contestants (the movie's supposed to be family entertainment, after all), and Siff's character falls for a really, really cute female police officer (Theresa San-Nicholas) because he gets turned-on by handcuffs. This comes off as being somewhat less credible than Jody McCrea falling for Marta Kristen's mermaid in Beach Blanket Bingo. But, lest we get the wrong idea, the dialogue is sprinkled with reminders about the negative objectification of women, and other sincere right-thinking intentions. See? Making movies is easy.

Directed by:
Robert Iscove

Kelly Clarkson
Justin Guarini
Anika Noni Rose
Katherine Bailess
Greg Siff
Brian Dietzen
Jason Tribar
Theresa San-Nicholas

Written by:
Kim Fuller

PG - Parental
Guidance Suggested
Some material may
not be appropriate
for children.






  Copyright © 1996-2005 by Nitrate Productions, Inc. All Rights Reserved.