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From Justin to Kelly

20th Century Fox Home Video

Starring Kelly Clarkson and Justin Guarini

Written by Kim Fuller
Directed by Robert Iscove

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Review by Damon Houx                    

Buzz is a mysterious thing in Hollywood. Films sometimes get good buzz attached when they don't deserve it, while — more often than not — bad buzz sticks to a film like flies on excrement. Sometimes a movie leaves bad pre-production buzz behind to become a classic (James Cameron's Titanic being the prime example); more often than not the bad buzz is right — witness Wild Wild West, Glitter, and Battlefield Earth. Yet often bad buzz is attached to mediocre films that the press or public is gunning for, that perhaps do not deserve the abuse they receive in the same way mediocre films can sweep the Oscar for appearing "important."

And were it not for the Bennifer train wreck that is Gigli, 2003's biggest "stinker" would probably be Robert Iscove's cheap "American Idol" cash-in From Justin to Kelly. The knives were out before it was released, and it died an ignominious death at the box office. And mostly because the film was exactly what it appeared to be: a cheap exploitation of the success and fame of "Idol"'s Kelly Clarkson and Justin Guarini.

But for a film that was probably never going to be a blockbuster, the backlash has been severe: FJ2K is (at this writing) ranked as the second-worst film of all time on the Internet Movie Database (right after Gigli); ranked by many who never even saw the film but clicked their tongues in disgust at the mere thought of it. Yet the movie itself is harmless. A trifle. And relatively (dare it be said) entertaining.

FJ2K follows two groups of three friends. Kelly (Clarkson) is suckered by her buddies to drive them down to Florida for spring break, while Justin (Guarini) is working the week with his crew of prime party hustlers, making some money to pay for college. The two meet on the beach (during one of the film's numerous musical numbers), and when they finally cross paths again Kelly throws Justin her number — only for it to fall in puddle and become illegible. Justin thinks he gets Kelly's number from her friend Alexa (Katherine Bailess), but what Justin doesn't know is that Alexa has her eye on him and gave him her number instead of Kelly's. Things get even more mixed up when Alexa enters Kelly into a whipped cream bikini contest, only to have it hosted by Justin. But the two are still attracted to each other, and they try and work it out while Alexa keeps interfering with their plans in an attempt to steal Justin.

Okay, so the plot isn't particularly original, and if one were to remove the cell phones and Internet references, the movie wouldn't look out of place in the 1950s. But FJ2K has at least one redeeming feature that marks it above such ridiculous fodder as films like Glitter: It has no pretensions. It is not trying to be anything more than a light-hearted PG summer fluff romantic musical comedy. That's all it is, and it's relatively entertaining for that.

The dance sequences — while never being all that elaborate — are good, one could even argue they're better than the ones in Chicago or Moulin Rouge because they don't use hyper-cutting to hide the performers' lack of ability. The musical numbers are well sung (depending on one's tolerance for the octave-jumping modern sound) with a couple of memorable numbers: "Bounce" and "That's the Way I Like It" give the movie the beach-party-flick feel that the director is obviously aping. "Anytime" is a nice ballad, and (in the extended cut) "Brighter Star" is a great little Grease homage. Sure, it's marginal, but it never had any more aspirations than being entertaining, and in it's "Let's put on a show" way, it gets by.

*          *          *

Fox presents From Justin to Kelley in anamorphic widescreen (1.78:1) on one side of the disc and in full-frame on the other. The full-frame presents the theatrical cut (81 min.) while the widescreen side offers both the theatrical and extended cut (90 min.), which contains two additional musicals numbers that help pad out the running time well. "Brighter Star" is perhaps the best number in the bunch while "With Love From Me to You" is a little more average. All are presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 audio.

For extras, there's an audio commentary with director Robert Iscove, Kelly Clarkson, and Justin Guarini on each version of the film. However, it's extremely vapid — both players haven't seen the film before and are mostly critical of themselves, while full of praise for their co-stars.

On the full-frame side are the rest of the extras. There are three deleted scenes, "Whipped Cream Bikini Contest Set Up" (:41), "Girls Checking Out the Scene" (:26), and "Alternate Eddie Ending" (:33), which offers a gay liaison for two jilted characters. Also included is an EPK entitled "Video Scrapbook" (8:30), another fluff featurette called "Center Stage with Justin and Kelly" (3:25) and "Singers Who Can Dance … Dancers Who Can Sing?" (6:38), which talks mainly to choreographer Travis Payne. Also included is a gag reel (1:10) where one can almost hear an American Idol say "Shit!"

— Damon Houx

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