From Justin to Kelly

From the taking-it-on-its-own-terms category comes From Justin to Kelly, less a movie than a ticking clock to signify that the 14th minute is here for its titular stars. And judging from box-office receipts, that clock is more than just a little bit fast.

Not even placing in the top 10 in its first week of release, the film shows there’s a vast difference between people willing to watch Justin Guarini and Kelly Clarkson for free on the tube and shell out $7.50 for what even they know is going to be a low-rent affair.

Lest it seem, though, that From Justin to Kelly is nothing but a fastball rocketing for a critic’s wheelhouse that will be in and out of town in two weeks, it isn’t annoyingly bad. Oh, it’s still bad, but in the so-that-it’s-good way.

The film’s obsession with text messaging, complete with absurd abbreviations, is a dopey riot. Also, Clarkson’s Texan accent comes and goes (basically, whenever she’s talking with fellow Texan characters), Guarini is referred to as “Sideshow Bob” and there are rounds aplenty of Spot the Bad Lip-Syncing.

There have been three-minute pop songs with a deeper narrative than that found here. Reluctant Kelly goes on Spring Break and goes googly-eyed for party-boy Justin during an elaborately choreographed, PG-rated grind session on the beach.

Initially after seeing each other for the first time, they duet “I’ve been watching you a while.” Wouldn’t it have made more sense for the cheesy synth-pop to drop out of the soundtrack and give them a 10-second glance at one another or something? Yeah, it’s that kind of movie.

Anyway, Kelly’s rampant harlot friend Alexa (Katherine Bailess) has her own sights on Justin, though, and launches a text-messaging revenge scheme that isn’t so much Shakespearean as it is Cingularian. An Internet nerd, dedicated player and rich-versus-poor romance subplot for Kelly’s friend Kaya rounds out the 80 minutes worth of fluff.

From Justin to Kelly is a film where the dialogue is less important than what you read on a cell phone. With gems like “My friends call me Kelly for short” (short for what? Kelliana?) and “It’s good when some things go wrong because it makes other things go right,” that’s not a bad thing.

Messages that read “I O U A BRGR. U GAME?” and “I WNT TKE NO 4 AN ANSWR – JSTN” propel the plot forward. Alas, all the scenes where Prince hijacks the cell phones have been left on the cutting room floor.

What we get instead are some musical breaks that don’t numb the mind, and some truly awful ones. There is one truly cringe-worthy boat-trip duet by Guarini and Clarkson, respective visual and lyrical knockoffs of “Material Girl” and “Staying Alive,” and an overload of pop-and-locks and come-hither X-Tina groanings in an awful end-credits rendition of “That’s the Way (I Like It).”

See, it’s bad. But like junk food, it’s deliciously so. How many other films feature a dispute between two men settled by who can toss more beanbags from a hovercraft? Exactly.



An award-winning film critic and features reporter, Nick has professionally written or gabbed about movies for Illinois newspapers, national syndicates, Playboy, The Art Immortal, The Film Yap and Midwest radio stations. He once drummed in a Billy Joel cover band known as Silly Joel and freely presents his Letterboxd page to engage and mock if you wish: https://letterboxd.com/ragekage79/


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