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From Justin to Kelly

  from justin to kelly
Kelly Clarkson makes the best of a poorly-choreographed situation.

© 2003, Fox
All Rights Reserved

The current pop culture phenomenon known as "American Idol" has indeed captured the imagination of the small screen audience in two highly rated installments thus far. Now, the tremendously popular talent show wants to branch out in different directions. First, it creates a needless spin-off in the form of "American Juniors" as temporary filler for the boob tube crowd. Now it takes its act on the road by featuring its very first winner, vibrant Texas-bred songbird Kelly Clarkson, and teams her up with curly-haired "AI" runner-up heartthrob Justin Guarini in the schmaltzy Spring Break romantic feature film "From Justin to Kelly" (IMDb listing).

There's nothing wrong with capitalizing on the continued appeal of the charismatic singing duo that became overnight sensations, but why did the clueless filmmakers have to saddle the "AI" perky pair with a scattershot and interminable musical movie that's so lame in its inert presentation?

Obviously, the desperately numbing "From Justin to Kelly" is in the tradition of the silly-minded but innocuous beach blanket movies that populated the wide screen during the early to mid '60s. Leads Frankie Avalon and Annette Funicello were established teen idols when they brought their brand of sunshine shenanigans to the giddy movie audience. But to serve up practically the same kind of inconsequential fluffy genre in these contemporary times, while not matching any of the free-spirited momentum so characteristic from the original nutty flicks some forty years ago, makes "FJTK" feel like a pointless and passe diversion. There's no doubt that streams of devoted preteens and other "AI" enthusiasts will want to cuddle up to both Kelly and Justin and flock to see their celebrated manufactured musical artists romp around as movie stars. And there's no denying that both "AI" alums are vocally talented. However, sitting through the bubble gum banality of "FJTK" is enough to make poor beach vets Frankie and Annette (and the rest of us for that matter) bury their delusional heads in the sand.

The premise, as transparent as it sounds, finds our Lone Star State sweetie (Clarkson) toiling as a waitress and pop star wannabe looking to unwind from the grind. Kelly's friends encourage her to relax and soak up the sun on a Spring Break getaway where they all can get loose for some good-natured fun and frolic. In the meanwhile, the Keystone State's dreamy boy wonder (Guarini) is the selected master of ceremonies in charge of giving some needed energy and entertainment gusto to the Spring Break festivities. His mission is to keep the party hopping with an assortment of activities that range from bikini contests to gasp...singing for the masses!

The stage is set for a great time at the sandy function for all involved. Kelly and her crew arrive looking to engage in some innocent mischievousness. And of course Justin and his hangers-on are there to infuse this happening with some needed spunk. Lo and behold, when the two strangers happened to notice one another, the sparks fly without a moment's warning. Hence, we have before us the Romeo and Juliette of the sunray set. But like so many instances when potential lovebirds try to hook up, the mishaps and mayhem threaten to get in the way of their progressive union, as petty jealousies and other distracting interference starts to take over. Don't you just hate when that happens?

There's not a whole lot of meat to chew on in "From Justin to Kelly". Simplistic and predictably tacky, there's no heart or soul behind this concocted musical misfire. The anemic plot doesn't bother to create anything remotely original or offbeat. This synthetic farce isn't even as deep as "AI" pretty-boy host Ryan Seacrest's vanity. If this flimsy flick's sole purpose is to carry on the pop cultural surge of "AI" sensibilities, why didn't the movie's handlers have the common sense or shrewd inclination to get villainous "AI" judge Simon Cowell involved to spice things up? (Hey...maybe Cowell politely nixed the idea of having his carefully crafted reputation spoiled by this trite travesty).

Surprisingly, newcomers Kelly Clarkson and Justin Guarini seem quite comfortable in their debut movie. If only the staid material didn't fail them so blatantly, then their effectiveness would have been more realized. The tandem does enthusiastically sing their lungs out and do what they can to serve up a series of finger-snapping moments. Unfortunately, the songs they choose to sing are rather generic and arbitrary. The choreography sequences can't hold a candle to the prime time "AI" vignettes that lead into commercial breaks. The supporting players are pretty much carbon copies from the cliched casting call of Teen Stock Characters 101 (you know...The Nice Girl, The Studly Guy, The Dimwitted One, The Vindictive Girl, etc.). Heck, even the movie's title is lazy and charmless and wouldn't be considered inventive enough for an ABC "After School Special."

Since "From Justin to Kelly" is nothing more than an exploitive campaign of blunt commercialism, why not take it to the limit and offer something that can challenge the resiliency of the Fox program's impact? This disposable flick plays it too safe and is more focused on pandering to its hardcore youthful demographics for fear that they will blow away if role models Kelly and Justin aren't seen in a non-threatening light. Yet they choose to suffocate their sexy leads in a half-hearted beach movie that will fade faster than Paula Abdul's singing career? Go figure.

Here's my cinematic advice to both Kelly and Justin: If you want to extend your 15 minutes of fame and turn it into an everlasting career, do not submit yourselves to any more forced dreck that insists on tarnishing your promising singing careers. Stick to what you know best—belting out tunes for your adoring followers. Concentrate on developing your scope as mainstream pop singers. Don't we have enough Madonnas trying to pick up scripts in a feeble attempt to be regarded as well rounded entertainers? At least Madonna has been around long enough to warrant the disastrous attempts at revisiting this painful fate over and over. As for Kelly and Justin, haven't earned that right just yet.

If any ill-advised project is deserving of a roguish Simon Cowell-esque belittling barb, then "From Justin to Kelly" qualifies for a bona fide royal scathing. This is a misguided display that shouldn't have been granted the permission to go to Hollywood. Or be created by Hollywood for that matter!

Filmfodder Grade: D-

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