From Justin To Kelly

2003, Movie, PG, 85 mins


Set in during Spring Break revels and thrown together in record time — some five months from start of principal photography to release — this fluffy musical showcase for first-generation American Idol stars Kelly Clarkson and Justin Guarini is in constant danger of wafting away on an ocean breeze. Three Texas gal pals and three righteous dudes from Pennsylvania head to Miami in search of fun, sun and sex (though for all the skimpy outfits, the film's language and depiction of dating rituals wouldn't be out of place in a '60s beach party movie). The Lone Star sweeties are nice girl Kelly (Clarkson, who looks strikingly like a slightly plump, teenage Patty Duke), smart and sassy Kaya (Anika Noni Rose) and rich, back-stabbing barracuda Alexa (Katherine Bailess). The Penn State posse comprises nerd-boy Eddie (Brien Dietzen), wild man Brandon (Greg Siff) and reformed party animal Justin (Guarini). Justin and Brandon run BR&J party promotions and throw the wildest events in town, from whipped-cream bikini contests to tropical pool parties. When Justin and Kelly meet, it's kismet. But things keep messing up their romance, most of them engineered by self-proclaimed "Queen of Conniving" Alexa, who wants Justin for herself. Meanwhile Kaya falls for a sweet-natured Cuban waiter (Jason Yribar) and Brandon keeps running afoul of a local cop (Theresa San Nicholas) who needs only let down her hair and trade her starchy uniform for a sarong to undergo an "Officer Cutler, you're gorgeous" transformation. Poor Eddie is constantly thwarted in his efforts to find his cyber-crush, Lizzie (Toi Svan Stepp); the two have arranged to meet face-to-face after a year of online flirting, but keep missing each other. Directed by Robert Iscove (who lost the opportunity to direct CHICAGO to Rob Marshall and apparently doesn't care who knows he's mad about it), this too-many-generations-removed copy of WHERE THE BOYS ARE (1960) is crammed with energetic but artless musical numbers that feature lip-synching multitudes and uninspired choreography. Clarkson and Guarini are both charmingly unaffected, but they're not movie stars; without the American Idol stamp of approval they'd be lucky to get cast as best friend. The music is lavishly overproduced pop pablum of the first order, and there's a deeply shallow irony in the fact the film's most memorable tune, KC and the Sunshine Band's 28-year-old "That's the Way I Like It," is easily twice the age of its target audience. leave a comment --Maitland McDonagh

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