Dunk Tank Tuesday: From Justin to Kelly (2003)

11/10/2015  By  Jordan Saïd     No comments

Every month, one hapless FRC writer will subject themselves to a terrible movie voted on by you, our wonderful readers. In our second installment, Jordan watches the American Idol movie because he lost his cyanide pill.

I hate you all.

I step in the Dunk Tank and pick five movies for you to choose from. But you couldn’t pick the Village People one! You couldn’t pick the Neil Diamond one! Those might have been fun! But noooooo! No, you had to make me watch the 80-minute how-to guide for making beach parties boring, the movie that makes me hope I never have rock-hard abs, the movie that makes me understand why that town in Footloose wanted to ban dancing… You chose From Justin to Kelly.

Somehow, this movie gets even more awkward than this still of Justin Guarini beatboxing.

So now I find myself writing about this movie for the same reason Justin Guarini and Kelly Clarkson starred in it: because I have no choice. Kelly in particular coasts through the entire film with a look of barely-concealed misery on her face. Justin looks marginally cognizant that this movie constitutes the last two of his fifteen minutes of fame, so at least he tries to enjoy this before going back to his day-job as a living chimney brush, relegated to the dustbin of 20-aughts has-beens alongside Elián González, K-Fed, and anthrax.

From Justin to Kelly has exactly the plot you think it does, even if you haven’t seen it. The film follows two parallel groups of friends. The three guys, who call themselves “The Pennsylvania Posse” (a slight improvement over the more fitting “Nobody Cares Crew”), throw parties for fun and profit. Justin (Guarini) quickly falls for Kelly and spends the film pining for her. Brandon (Greg Siff), the womanizing party animal who compulsively shows off his chest, acts like Bud Bundy with similar levels of success. Eddie (Brian Dietzen) fills the obligatory uptight nerd role.

Meet Brian Dietzen, the only person in this movie whose acting career would go anywhere.

As for the girls, Kelly (Clarkson) pines back for Justin, but her friend Alexa (Katherine Bailess) goes all Iago and turns every stone to mess their relationship up out of jealousy and (probably) boredom. Also, they have a friend named Kaya (Anika Noni Rose) whom they consider the smart one. I’d agree, since she has the smallest role.

To boil the plot down, it takes Justin and Kelly the entire movie—the entire boring, monotonous, brainless tailpipe of a movie—to figure out that Alexa has manipulated them both to keep them apart. I hate Alexa as much as the film seems to want me to, since her dilatory drama-bombing serves as the main force dragging this movie out. Because of her, the plot runs through all the usual sitcom-romance-accident clichés: Justin and Kelly accidentally stand each other up, they each incorrectly think the other has rejected them, Justin thinks Kelly has a boyfriend when she doesn’t, and of course, Kelly sees Justin get an unwanted kiss and mistakes it as cheating. But through all of this, Kelly and Justin have so little chemistry that one almost wants them to break up for the same reason we all enjoy eavesdropping on family drama in expensive restaurants.

The acting makes it all so much worse. Every single actor reads their lines like an 80s commercial. I kept expecting them to say “milk does a body good” or “part of a balanced breakfast.” The most heartfelt (but certainly not proficient) acting comes from Kelly Clarkson, who looks genuinely depressed that she has to do this movie. She spends half this movie looking like she’ll never have a birthday again. Unsurprisingly, she has the strongest singing voice as well; her palpable desperation over her American Idol contract lends a decidedly mournful quality.

The two men grab Kelly and force her to participate in a whip cream bikini contest against her will.
For laughs.
You know.
Ha ha ha ha.

The writers at least have the mercy to sporadically give up on the plot for a set of musical numbers. But every single song sounds the same. Most have an army of extras executing synchronized dances consisting of flexing and dry-humping. The songs all have the same lyrical content. To paraphrase…

  • “I like Spring Break.”
  • “Spring Break is fun.”
  • “Rubbing my pelvis against strangers causes romantic tension.”
  • “I should party more often.”
  • “I don’t drink enough.”
  • “Learning how to breakdance was a pragmatic use of my abundant free time.”
  • “In this film’s universe, I won’t give you crabs.”
  • “I take great pride in my ability to forget women exist after dancing with them.”
  • “You should want to dance now.”
  • “Dancing.”
  • “Dance.”

The lyrics feel oddly incongruous with what we see on the screen. For instance, Justin and Kelly sing the entire big romantic declaring-our-love duet without even looking at each other.

Justin and Kelly sing about how much they love each other whilst looking like they just broke up in Hour 1 of their honeymoon.

Alexa sings a song about her Machiavellian scheming called “Wish Upon a Star,” and it has nothing to do with anything her character has done. The rest of the lyrics get lost in a miasma of passionless gyrating and halfhearted lip-synching.

Now, I’m not a choreographer, but I don’t think dance moves are supposed to look like giving birth.

Most of all, it seems inconceivable to me that this movie promotes partying and Spring Break culture. The entire movie feels like the world’s least interesting commercial for bikinis or low-rise jeans or booking Pitbull at your local college. This movie could make a paraplegic happy not to dance. This movie uses the word “party” more than most movies use the word “the,” and somehow it still makes parties excruciatingly boring. After sitting through 80 minutes of clichés, synchronized dancing, and cookie-cutter pop music, I never want to party again.

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About Jordan Saïd

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Jordan Saïd does mathematics by day and writes for Front Row Central and Turban Decay by night (and weekend). He specializes in American road films, kung fu cinema, and camp (the aesthetic, not the wilderness). He lives in Eastern Washington with five cats.

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