From Justin to Kelly
Billed as Grease on the beach, this teen pop idol flick will never be the one that we want; it's too hopelessly devoted to selling out.
Like Sandy and Danny in Grease, From Justin to Kelly's two main characters (American Idols Kelly Clarkson and Justin Guarini) are worlds apart: Justin's a party promoter hanging out in Miami for Spring Break; Kelly's a small-town Texas girl dragged there by her more adventurous friends. They fall madly in love after a 30-second dance number, then spend the rest of the movie trying--and failing--to hook up. Contrary to the marketing behind this movie, though, that's where the comparisons with Grease end. From Justin to Kelly isn't a musical--it's a music video, complete with MTV-style Spring Break beach parties and cellular phone ''texting'' as the driving force behind what little plot there is. It has the potential to be almost cultishly kitschy if the songs were even remotely interesting, but they're just more of the same trite pop garbage we've come to expect from our American Idols. The songs have no connection to one another or to the plot itself, and the lyrics rarely reflect the situation the characters are supposed to be singing about. Even if the songs were great and this film had a plot (they're not and it doesn't), the dance numbers look like they were choreographed by a kickboxing instructor, not a dancer. On the plus side, choreographer Travis Payne's athletic style may singlehandedly bring breakdancing back from its shallow '80s grave.
From Justin to Kelly is so bad, it would be comical if the exploitation of two actually talented singers hadn't been so utterly complete. I mean, we didn't really expect them to act, but at least give them something to work with in between songs. Instead, even the songs are crap and the dialogue that writer Kim Fuller (Spice World) gives the stars isn't just trite--it often makes no sense whatsoever. To wit: ''We met at the beach. My friends call me Kelly for short.'' Short for what? Kelly? The transitions from dialogue into the songs are even worse, if that's possible, particularly for poor Justin. ''There's definitely something going on between us, you know?'' he says, then immediately bursts into song, barking out the lyrics with such diva-esque force that if he'd really been singing to his lover he'd have burst her eardrums. Clarkson belts everything out with equal vigor--including her supposedly sweet solo number designed, apparently, to be a modern-day version of Olivia Newton-John's heartbreaking ''Hopelessly Devoted to You.'' She's yawping so loudly that it's impossible to believe this is a devastated young girl who's lost her love. The only scene that remotely showcases Kelly's vocal talents comes when her good-girl character decides to let loose and party hardy at the pool with a big musical number ''Must Be the Madness,'' which pays a bit of homage to its predecessors, Saturday Night Fever and Grease.
Like the shifts from dialogue into song, director Robert Iscove's shifts from scene to scene are abrupt to the point of disturbing; it's as if his editor made this pic in a DIY editing suite like iMovie, with too-slow dissolves and a few thinly veiled blue screens. You expect the sign of the true amateur to appear at any moment: the ubiquitous ''star wipe.'' And it would be remiss not to mention the completely ridiculous hovercraft race between Justin and his rival, the interestingly named Luke--given the obvious, if grossly misguided, allusion to the pod race in Phantom Menace. There are only two reasons this movie gets even half a star. One is the fact that a minor character actually calls Justin ''Sideshow Bob,'' a reference to the character from The Simpsons whom the almost American Idol oddly resembles, instead of whispering it behind his back. The other is the bikinis, which are incredibly, let's say, creative. But the rest of the costumes border on the ridiculous; in one splashy pool party number, Clarkson's wearing a skirt made entirely of--get this--men's ties. By the time the big finale rolls around--a rendition of K.C. and the Sunshine Band's ''That's the Way (I Like It)''--you'll be thinking that's the way you like this movie, too--over.
''Some people wait a lifetime,'' Kelly Clarkson sang, ''for a moment like this.'' She and her buddy Justin Guarini should have waited longer for a better movie deal.