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Robert Iscove
Kelly Clarkson, Justin Guarini
Writing Credits:
Kim Fuller

The tale of two American Idols.

It's love at first splash when a shy singer (Clarkson) from Texas hooks up with a cute Pennsylvania college student (Guarini) at the ultimate beach party, but a series of mix-ups and misunderstandings may prevent their budding romance from reaching the final round!

Box Office:
Budget $12 million.
Opening Weekend:
$2.715 million on 2001 screens.
Domestic Gross:
$4.922 million.

Rated PG

Widescreen 1.85:1/16x9
English Dolby Digital 5.1

Runtime: 90 min.
Price: $27.98
Release Date: 8/26/2003

• Audio Commentary with Director Robert Iscove and Actors Kelly Clarkson and Justin Guarini
• Deleted Scenes
• Video Scrapbook
• “Center Stage” With Justin and Kelly
• “Singers Who Dance… Dancers Who Sing?” Featurette
• Gag Reel

Search Titles:

Sony 36" WEGA KV-36FS12 Monitor; Sony DA333ES Processor/Receiver; Panasonic CV-50 DVD Player using component outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Sony SA-WM40 Subwoofer.


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From Justin To Kelly: Special Edition (2003)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (August 12, 2003)

When I went to see A Mighty Wind last spring, I noticed a “Coming Soon” poster for From Justin to Kelly. I nearly collapsed with shock – could a movie feel more like a piece of exploitative concept than this American Idol-related quickie?

Perhaps, but now that I’ve taken in the final product, it’s tough to imagine. A virtually plot-free affair, Justin initially introduces us to Kelly (Kelly Clarkson), an unsuccessful country singer in Texas. Her friends Alexa (Katherine Bailess) and Kaya (Anika Noni Rose) convince her to go to Florida with them for spring break.

When the movie shifts to the Sunshine State, we meet Justin (Justin Guarini) with his friends, nerdy Eddie (Brian Dietzen) and studly Brandon (Greg Siff). Eddie’s going to meet a woman with whom he interacted online, while Brandon wants to organize parties, hook up with lots of babes, and make a ton of money. Kelly and Justin quickly see each other on the beach and make a brief connection. Alas, they find it tough to really get together due to a variety of factors that challenge them throughout the movie.

And that’s about it for plot! Is From Justin to Kelly as bad as I anticipated, or as terrible as everyone makes it out to be? No – it’s not possible for any film to live down to such low expectations. Justin underwent a real knee-jerk negative reaction that seems out of proportion to the product itself. Insanely, it’s rated as the worst movie ever by IMDB voters, but I guarantee that the vast majority of them never actually saw the flick.

With a pathetic gross of barely $4 million, hardly anybody watched the movie theatrically, and those who did were likely much more open-minded than the folks who slammed it on IMDB. In my opinion, the worst films are those that totally waste potential. Justin never had a real shot at becoming something worthwhile, so it can’t really qualify as a disaster. It’s kind of like a grade school band concert; there’s only so much you can expect from folks with that level of talent, so you can’t think of it as “the worst concert ever” despite the absence of technical achievement.

Since it appears that virtually no one involved with Justin enjoys much talent, I can’t find myself terribly horrified by the results. That said, those results really are quite pathetic. First of all, the story is as thin as humanly possible. The movie only runs 90 minutes, but it pads that length with numerous, unending production numbers. Without those, I’d guess there’s maybe 20 minutes of plot and exposition packed into the flick.

Those moments don’t exactly challenge the viewer either. The “boy meets girl/boy loses girl/boy gets girl” story couldn’t be more tired, and the way it develops does nothing to expand the genre. The supporting characters barely manage to become cheap stereotypes. The hapless nerd? The self-centered hottie? The sex-obsessed hunk? It’s clear no one spent much time developing these roles.

Still, at least those basic descriptions mean that the characters have some personality. The same can’t be said for our leads, who seem as bland as can be. Kelly’s nice, and Justin’s nice, and that’s about it. It doesn’t help that the actors themselves display virtually no chemistry and seem to barely even recognize each other’s existence during their shared scenes. It’s hard to accept their “love at first sight” romance when they appear only loosely cognizant of their shared time together.

Given that Justin aims for the crowd that adored American Idol, one might think all those production numbers would hit the spot. Unfortunately, they seem as generic and dull as everything else. Actually, they often feel all like the same production number. We encounter one uninspired pop song after another, and almost nothing makes any of them stand out from the crowd. Sure, there’s the tune that rips off “Summer Nights” from Grease, but otherwise I can’t recall a single song. (Actually, I can’t truly remember that tune – I just recall a track that blatantly echoed Grease.)

Combine these generic songs with clunky choreography and the production numbers won’t allow anyone to mistake this for Chicago. Of course, with brilliant dialogue like “My friends call me Kelly for short”, no one will think Joe Mankiewicz rose from the dead to pen this script. (“Kelly for short”? Short for what?)

Did I genuinely hate From Justin to Kelly? No – the film is far too feeble and insubstantial to merit that level of emotion. I muddled through it for an hour and a half and then almost totally forgot it when it ended. I’d have preferred to see a truly atrocious flick, for at least it might have registered with me. As it stands, Justin is just a boring dud.

Note that I reviewed the “extended version” of the film. The DVD utilizes seamless branching to include both theatrical and extended cuts, though they appear only for the widescreen version; those who prefer the fullscreen Justin will have to settle for the theatrical film. The extended one runs about nine minutes longer as it includes two additional musical numbers: “Brighter Star” and “With Love From Me to You”. Some people regard an extra nine minutes of Justin as being cruel and unusual punishment, but I suppose the flick’s fans will be happy to see the material. In any case, it’s cool that Fox offers the option to watch the movie either way.

The DVD Grades: Picture B/ Audio B/ Bonus C+

From Justin to Kelly appears in both an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 and in a fullscreen version on this double-sided, single-layered DVD; the widescreen image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Only the letterboxed picture was reviewed for this article. At times Justin looked splendid, but enough small concerns added up to knock down my grade to a “B”.

Interiors caused most of the problems. Given the movie’s beach setting, not a lot of those occurred, but when they did, they sometimes tended to appear somewhat dense and murky. Actually, most shots at clubs looked fine, but other indoor venues were less attractive. Focus became a little loose, and things seemed a bit muddy.

Otherwise, the movie mostly looked terrific. Sharpness usually seemed solid. Except for the parts already noted, the image was nicely defined and distinctive. Jagged edges and moiré effects created no issues, and only a little light edge enhancement appeared at times. Print flaws manifested themselves via the occasional speck, bit of grit, or mark, but those examples showed up infrequently.

Colors often seemed very positive. As one might expect of a movie set at spring break, it featured bright and vibrant colors that almost always came across as dynamic and vivid. Black levels were dense and warm, while shadows seemed well developed. The nighttime exteriors looked very crisp and appropriately opaque. At times the image reached reference levels; check out the production number in chapter 20 to see some stunning visuals. However, a few too many issues appeared to keep the whole picture from looking that good.

The Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of From Justin to Kelly seemed good but unexceptional. It lost points mainly due to a generally unambitious soundfield. Music dominated the track, and the songs demonstrated solid stereo imaging. The tunes also spread reasonably naturally to the rears, which supported them well. Otherwise, the mix lacked a lot of activity. The soundtrack presented a decent sense of general atmosphere but not much more beyond that. Elements seemed a bit speaker-specific much of the time, and they didn’t blend as smoothly as I’d expect. The rear channels kicked in with ambience most of the time, as they added a little to the presentation.

Audio quality was good for the most part. Speech usually came across as natural and distinct, though I noticed a little edginess to some lines. Effects remained a small part of the track, but they sounded clean and accurate, and they displayed no concerns related to distortion. Given the fact this was a musical, it should come as no surprise that music dominated the mix, and the various songs sounded very good. Highs were clean and tight, and the tunes presented some nicely deep and tight low-end. Overall, the audio seemed pretty solid for this sort of flick.

Despite the movie’s abysmal box office performance, From Justin to Kelly comes with a few supplements. (Actually, I’d bet that all the extras were completed well before the film hit the screens, so its failure wouldn’t have influenced the DVD.) The disc opens with an audio commentary from director Robert Iscove and actors Kelly Clarkson and Justin Guarini. All three sit together for their running, screen-specific track.

Overall, the commentary seems pretty weak, though it moves at a decent enough pace. The main problem stems from the fact that no one ever tells us much concrete information about the making of the movie. Clarkson appears fixated on her inability not to squint onscreen, and beyond bland statements like “this was the fourth day of shooting”, we don’t get a lot of notes about the flick. At best, Iscove chats about some cut scenes and tosses in some trivia, such as the fact that Jason Yribar doubled as a dancer in many group scenes, so they needed to hide his identity at those times. The track also suffers from quite a few empty spaces, particularly during its early moments.

However, on the positive side, the three share a nice rapport. Heck, if Clarkson and Guarini showed this much chemistry onscreen, the film might not have been so dismal. The three joke with each other and seem to have fun as they screen the movie. Apparently this was the first time Clarkson and Guarini saw the final product, so it’s sort of neat to get their initial reactions, bland as their remarks may be. No one who doesn’t like From Justin to Kelly will get much from this commentary, but the flick’s fans might enjoy it just for its light tone.

The commentary can be viewed with either the widescreen or fullscreen cuts of the film, though since the latter only offers the theatrical edition of the flick, you’ll lose some commentary; the extended version includes the full discussion. Justin spreads its other extras to the fullscreen side of the disc. Deleted Scenes presents three unused snippets. These run between 24 seconds and 39 seconds, which means they total only 95 seconds. All seem insubstantial, though the “Alternate Eddie Ending” at least attempts to be slightly daring. (That must be why they cut it – they didn’t want anything even slightly interesting in this ultra-bland flick.)

Next we find the eight and a half minute Video Scrapbook. This includes shots from the set, some movie snippets, and soundbites from director Iscove as well as actors Clarkson, Guarini, Katherine Bailess, Greg Siff, Brian Dietzen, Anika Noni Rose, and Jason Yribar. “Video Scrapbook” must be a synonym for “promotional featurette”. To its mild credit, the “Scrapbook” does present a few slightly interesting behind the scenes clips. However, it mostly just gives us quick recaps about the characters and relates how much fun everyone had. Yawn!

”Center Stage” With Justin and Kelly runs three minutes and 25 seconds. They chat briefly about their careers and how excited they are to make the movie. Iscove also tells us they’re wonderful. And that’s about it for this bland puff piece.

The six-minute and 37-second Singers Who Dance… Dancers Who Sing? featurette documents the flick’s choreography. In addition to more bits from the set, we hear from Guarini, Iscove, Rose, Clarkson, Siff, Dietzen, Yribar, choreographer Travis Payne, and assistant choreographer Stacy Walker. This doesn’t say much, but “Dance” offers the meatiest of the DVD’s featurettes. It remains moderately fluffy, but it gives us some insights into the production and actually provides a smidgen of useful material, something I can’t say for its two predecessors.

Finally, Justin ends with a Gag Reel. Some would argue the whole movie’s a gag reel, but this one tosses in some of the usual goofs and wacky shenanigans. It fills 70 seconds with the nuttiness. If you like the movie, you’ll probably like this. If you don’t, you won’t.

I suppose someone out there must actually enjoy From Justin to Kelly. After all, they sure made an impression on TV, didn’t they? That popularity didn’t translate to box office success, but someone must think this tripe is fun.

Not me. I didn’t loathe Justin, mostly because the movie simply is too insignificant to warrant much emotion. It’s bland, by the numbers, totally generic and forgettable. The DVD offers good but not excellent picture and audio along with a fluffy set of extras. For the seven people who liked Justin this DVD is a good purchase. For the folks who love really bad movies, this DVD is a good purchase. Everyone else should skip it.

Viewer Film Ratings: 3.7831 Stars Number of Votes: 83
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