As I write this, the fourth season of American Idol is humming along like a runaway locomotive packed with stupid loud people. I understand this season’s ratings scam was Paula Abdul—former Raider Girl butt-shaker and helium-voiced diva dorkette—making it with one of the contestants. The shtick, for our international visitors, is that three judges listen to amateur singers belt out schlock over mystery strings or artificial R&B bilge. Abdul is the nice judge, Simon is the mean judge, and the other judge isâ€¦wellâ€¦not that nice or mean.
Guest judges also are used, typically former singers like Barry Manilow. On these nights, the contestants sing the songs of the guest star, with all the hideous possibilities that disinters from the graveyard of bad ideas. Like ‘Mandy’ snarled by a tone-deaf TKE from Iowa State who couldn’t hold pitch at gunpoint, for example, or ‘I Write the Songs’ warbled by a recent immigrant who knows English as his next language.
Naturally, the show is a smash. In the first season, the winner was some moppet named Kelly Clarkson and the runner-up was Justin Guarini. The people who released this picture must have known it was a piece of garbage. But American Idol was a smash that year, and Justin and Kelly were so darn wholesome, sellable, and perky that a quickie movie was inevitable lest a chance to strike while the pan was flashing would be lost forever—or until Donald Trump slithers forth with Apprentice the Movie.
From Justin to Kelly is interesting in that it combines the worst of teen beach movies, reality TV, and perhaps the most hit-or-miss genre, the musical. Sort of a celluloid perfect storm. Throw in elements from Happy Days, Saved by the Bell and Family Ties and pour over all of it a flavorless sauce made from 7th grade health movies, and it’s a tropical cyclone of idiocy. But money talks and common sense and self-respect walk when such an opportunity presents itself in Hollywood.
“It was nightmare itself, and to look at it was to die. But it made men dreamâ€¦” â€“H.P. Lovecraft
Finally, this was the most fun I’ve ever had at what I call a ‘Jabootu’ screening. I was neither appalled nor bored. Well, not that bored, anyway. My usual scheme for doing a review is to have an ‘official’ screening wherein I invite friends and family and watch a bad movie without even attempting to write notes, except maybe to jot down a funny comment someone makes. Just letting the badness wash over me, as it were. This stinker was watched at my place with my sister Maddy and friend Cissy. (Someday we’ll assemble the entire “Cute Life” quartet for one of these—stayed tuned.) We had a great time and much laughter and parody singing was shared at the expense of these warbling American Idol dorks. Later—and alone—I dug in with a scene-by-scene dissection, sometimes watching a particular scene two or three times.
Oh, what else to say here. Well, this is my first small ‘nugget-sized’ review here at Jabootu. This is primarily because this movie, unlike some of the Leviathan exercises in cosmic badness that lurk on this site, such as The Trial of Billy Jack and Sextette, basically had no substance at all. Sure it’s bad, in a tacky-billboard-on-the-interstate kind of way, but not in any particularly unexpected or multi-faceted way. Likewise, there’s only so many (arguably) funny ways for a reviewer to repeat the mantra: “Song sucks, choreography crap, acting awful” over and over again. Also, the thing isn’t even an hour-and-a-half long*. And, I must admit, I only watched it twice. For that, I apologize. A reviewer should, no matter how appalling the movie, give the director and actors a fair chance to strut their stuff and the readers of the review a complete picture of the director’s vision andâ€¦
Actually, you know what? I’m not sorry.
*Trivia Master Ken: Actually, it’s well under an hour and a half. It’s 80 minutes, thus making it one of the shortest films—in a literal, temporal sense at least—to be given a theatrical release in a long time. In an effort to combat this, the DVD also offers and ‘extended’ cut, which is the same movie with two songs that had been cut out put back in. As anyone who has seen the movie can tell you, there’s not a decent tune in the film anyway, so this doesn’t exactly help matters.
We open inside an empty roadhouse. Well, not empty as Kelly Clarkson is crooning some soulful drivel number with a band backing her. I thought this was supposed to be a rehearsal of some sort, but when she finishes up with a flourish, she acts disappointed that the only guy clapping is some loaded country boy hootin’ it up real good. So I’m supposed to buy that they pay a band and a singer to perform to a bar that’s completely empty? This Texas bar looks a little suspicious also: bright, airy, nice accoutrements, friendly-looking staff cleaning up, and no cigarette smoke. Hmm.
Mercifully, they don’t play the whole number. Once the caterwauling ends, Mr. Drunken Cowboy Stereotype (just add Stetson!) comes on to Kelly professing his love but Kelly Let’s-Just-Be-Friends him, explaining that she doesn’t feel the same way about him. He aw-shucks back a painful, “Not yet, but I’m like a hurricane! I’m gonna blow you over!” before hitching his thumbs in his Wranglers and grinning a simpleton Jack-O-Lantern leer.
In walk two of Kelly’s friends, Alexis and Kaya. Kaya’s fairly nondescript, but blonde Alexis is decked out and made up like she has an “Everything Must Go!” outlet mall Gap sale in her past and a brass pole in her future. ‘Conversation’ among the droids follows. Ack, that’s an atrocious ‘Texas’ accent affected by Alexis. She makes ‘beach’ two-syllables—”Were goin’ to da bah-each!” It makes you want to stick screwdrivers through your eardrums. And this from a Mountain State girl who is sometimes mocked for her own accent. It’s that bad. Anyway, they convince Kelly to join them for a roadtrip to Miami.
Queue the opening credit sequence. This is a low-rent Miami Vice knock-off, starting with shots of Miami cityscapes blending into beach scenes of revelers on the strands culminating in aerial shots of Kelly and Co. in some ancient 4×4 P.O.S. driving over bridges out to the shore. But instead of Jan Hammer’s golden oldie “Theme from Miami Vice” we get an absolutely hideous cover of the Go-Gos’ “Vacation”—counted among my most beloved childhood anthems. They’ve managed to deflate one of the happiest songs and turn it into something that makes a Weather Channel Local Forecast version of “The Little Drummer Boy” sound like Handel’s Messiah. I never, ever want to hear this cover again. Never. Ever.
Throughout the opening shots the credits are creatively shown—a girl laying out rolls over and the casting director’s name is on her towel, a van pulls by with the producer’s name on it, etc. Surprisingly, Director Robert Iscove’s name doesn’t appear on a garbage truck but rather on a banner towed by an airplane. Coming into this, his only other claim to celluloid shame that you might have heard of were two Freddy Prinz Jr. movies, She’s All That and Boys & Girls. What, you mean you never watched them?
After the vapid opening credits sequence dies with a whimper, we get to meet the guys. Stalking through the curiously lifeless beach-going throng are Justin and his friends, Nerdguy and Player. I think Player’s name is Brandon and Nerdguy’s name is Eddie, but Nerdguy and Player were, I’m sure, the names used on the storyboard. (Justin, I suppose, is the ‘Nice Guy.’) Player is established by Nerdguy saying something about all the hearts Player broke during last year’s spring break. Nerdguy’s reputation, in return, is established by Player saying something about hoping that Nerdguy doesn’t spend this spring break with his grandmother.
Nerdguy counters that he needs to check his email because he’s supposed to meet his romantic chat room pen-pal friend this week. (Sub-plot alert!) There’s some guy-bonding about how the “Pennsylvania Posse”—their name, not mine—is going to rule the beach this spring break and so on. Apparently Player, who is sporting the latest rage, the hairless chest “plucked chicken” look, is also something of a spring break entrepreneur. He prattles on about how he’s going to organize the greatest whipped-cream bikini contest ever. You know, since this is an American Idol move, maybe there should be some actualâ€¦you knowâ€¦more singing and dancing?
OK, your minute is up! That’s enough character development! Particularly since these ‘characters’ were pulled off the discount shelf at ClichÃ©s-R-Us. It’s time for the first choreographed music number. Kelly and her friends are also walking though the same portion of the crowded beach when a dreadful Mariah Carey-esque song begins to seep through the crowd like skunk smell through the AC vents on a country road. Each cast member takes a turn at singing a round. Player sings about the girls he’s going to get, Nerdguy sings about being nervous around girls, Kelly sings about hoping to meet a nice guy. Watching this, we each tried our hand, composing some off-color stanzas of our own between snickers.
Then, nearly as soon as it’s begun, the song is over. Why???
Next scene. The Pennsylvania Posse is checking into their hotel room. The manager is shown opening the door for them and issuing old-fogey proclamations such as “No girls!” and “No noise!” and such. As sterile as this movie is, maybe this manager moonlights as a MPAA movie reviewer or a Disney exec. While unpacking, Nerdguy wonders if this room has high speed internet access and Player continues to exhort the imminent string of parties and one-night stands in their futures. Alright already, we get it! One’s a geek and the other’s a horndog and they’re meant to contrast Justin’s Nice-but-not-too-nice-guy persona. Let’s move on.
We switch over to the girlies who are also settling in and getting ready to go out. Alexis is decked out in a tacky bathing suit and Dollar General bling. Kaya says Kelly really needs to loosen up and not clinch. Kelly pouts defensively, “I don’t clinch! I don’t!” The other two look at her dubiously. You don’t act very well either, dearheart.
Back to the Pennsylvania Polka. Justin is securing his Nice Guy credentials by woodenly mooning on Kelly with some starry-eyed blather about how she was really cute and do you think she was interested in me and so on. What? He sounds like he wants to propose to her or something already. Player will have none of it, delivering a stale soliloquy about how their code is to love-em-and-leave-em and for Justin to not get hung up on one girl or he’ll end up with no game like Nerdguy. Price Charmless. Nerdguy, for his part, is complaining about the old telephone in the room and how he’ll never be able to access the web because of it. He makes Urkel from Full House seem like some brooding, nuanced Josef Conrad character.
Then, back once again to the girls. Still more blather. This beach movie is treading water.
Finally, we find ourselves in the midst of some kind of impromptu-yet-ersatz beach party. Finally a song starts; a totally grooveless duet begins to percolate through the crowd as Justin and Kelly wander through looking for one another. At first, neither are even lip-syncing the song, but soon they begin crooning away in the overblown manner of lounge singers trying to be Neil Diamond. I think this particular overcooked R&B snoozer is called “Forever Part of Me”. I think the same computer program that spits out Chinese restaurant names (Happy Palace, Golden Dragon, Happy Dragon, Golden Palace) picked that song title from the same pool of words used to construct romance novel titles.
Apparently, Player is organizing a whipped-crÃ¨me bikini contest. He and Justin split up and are seen handing out bracelets that will act as entry tickets. These are inexplicitly popular. Justin runs into Alexis. She slithers up to him like a lot lizard and purrs something about wanting a ticket. Justin greets this tarty come-on with his one expression—empty bewilderment. Reaching around him, Alexis goes for his back pocket and grabs all the bracelets, yelling that she’s got the entry bracelets that nobody was asking Justin about she shown up. The extras suddenly mob her—perhaps thinking that the bracelets are tickets off the set or something. She gets knocked face-first into the sand. Funny stuff.
Justin, for his part, gets chased into a women’s restroom, locking the door behind him. Hey guess what? Kelly is in the bathroom as well. They exchange some blah blah before Kelly tells him that whipped-creamed bikini contests are degrading to women. This—and previous arms-folded pernickety statements—are supposed to establish our frosty heroine as a “good girl” so that Justin melting her heart will seem all the more heartwarming. Whatever. Hey Kelly, you know what? You’re in Miami at Spring Break. I’ve been to Ft. Lauderdale for Spring Break. This is like going to Alaska and complaining about the cold.
Justin leaps out the window. Kelly writes her name on a paper towel in lipstick and throws it after him, but it lands in a puddle and is illegible. Gee, another missed opportunity! I think this just might be the most worn out movie clichÃ© I can think of—the couple that can’t quite make the connection through a series of screwball obstacles the script puts in their way. Did anybody pay to see this pap crap plot? Where’s the singing and dancing?
We see Kaya standing alone, fretting over some drink she spilled on her mini—apparently during the bracelet scrum. A Hot Latin waiter comes over and helps her clean up. The Plot-O-Matic 3000â„¢ clanks out some gushing dialogue as she moons on him. They make plans. Wonderful—yet another irritating thread to wrap up.
Justin runs into Alexis again. This is a weird set as it appears that Alexis is sitting on some kind of poster bed outside next to the crowded sidewalk. Well, I guess she is a tall blonde, after all. And her ringsâ€¦I wonder how many dimes went into the machine to get them. Justin asks her for Kelly’s number. Tramp is surprised. Justin says he’s not into “party girls.” She gives him a number she says belongs to Kelly but which is instead really her own.
Later, as the trio of fembots is strolling over the beach, Alexis’ cell phone rings. It’s Justin, of course. He text-messages her: “I OU A BUGR. U GAME?” Ugh. Alexis, pretending to be Kelly, sends back “SRRY NOT INTRSTED.”
Night falls with a thud. Kaya and Carlos—the Hispanic Waiter—are in club clothes and walking down an alley. You know, I don’t care who pairs off with who, but having Carlos and African-American Kaya match up smells a little corporate boardroom to me. The Niceguy gets the Nicegirl, the Player/Bimbo get anybody they want, the minorities get one another, and the Nerdguy gets the Nerdgirl. It’s good that everybody is categorized and neatly packaged like the portions of an in-flight meal in coach. Everybody know their place? Good. We can move on.
Anyway, Kaya is wary—understandably—but Carlos pulls back a sliding door and shows her into a Latin dance club. Led onto the dance floor, Kaya joins into a pretty well done Salsa number underway on the dance floor. The dancers seen on the periphery here can really move. However, after a minute or so, the scene inexplicably fades in mid-song!
Why? So we can fast forward to next morning for more mind-numbing dialogue! The girls are sitting at a cabana conducting a post-mortem on Kaya’s night. You know, there might be more to tell if the movie hadn’t cut it off. Alexis gets another text message from Justin: “I WNT TKE NO 4 AN ANSWR!” She ignores it. Know what? THS FLCK STNKS.
Editor Ken: U CAN SAY THT AGN
After they listen to the (abbreviated) version of Kaya’s hot night, Kelly sighs and pouts that she’s in a rut. Can’t imagine why. Alexis perks up and drawls that she’s entered Kelly in the whipped-cream bikini contest. Later, at the event—a G-rated whipped cream bikini contest that looks like it’s being held by the Knights of Columbus—she portrays outrage, reiterating the palaver earlier about the humiliation and degradation of women and that she’s shocked—shocked—that a nice guy like Justin is helping to promote such a thing and so on. She splats a little Kool-Whip in Justin’s face before stalking off. After linking up with Alexis and Kaya, she expresses surprise and dismay that Justin would do this and that he seemed so nice in the ladies restroom before and so on and so forth. Alexis falsely commiserates with her, telling her to stop thinking about him.
You know, this movie has six major characters—four too many—each with their own tiresome plot thread weaving a shroud of boredom to wrap the corpse of my attention. Exhibit A: Next we have Nerdguy miss his first connection with Nerdgirl. He’s waiting for her when a couple of hunky guys ask him to play volleyball with them for no good reason other than IITS. After he’s in action—zany pratfalls and all—Nerdgirl appears, can’t find him, and walks off. This is gold, Jerry! Gold!
Kelly at a burger stand. Justin walks up and tries to apologize for the horrible and traumatic whipped-cream bikini contest to which she was invited. (Hey Justin, where’s my apology for watching this? I think a lot of people deserve apologies for expecting dancing and singing and instead getting fourth-rate derivative tripe.) Kelly gets angry and tells the take-out stand attendant she wants her burger to go. Then she attempts to blow Justin off, sputtering stuff like, “You’re a player!” and “I can’t believe you!” before accidentally spilling hot sauce on him. He finally convinces her to take a boat ride with him later.
Insipid interlude: it’s Player’s turn to bore us. He’s counting his money when the babe cop* appears again and cites him for not having a permit for the bikini contest. Oh whatEVER! Get on with it already!
*Editor Ken: Babe Cop is a recurring ‘character’ who pops up out of nowhere about every ten minutes to issue Player a citation of one sort or other. Because, you see, it’s ‘funny.’
Alright, the boat ride. Justin has access to a small motorboat and takes Kelly out in it. First they exchange in a little not-so-Immortal Dialogue:
“Do you bring all your girls out here?”
“No, I mostly come out here to think.”
[Stop. Please stop. This is awful. Just. Stop. Talking.] “What are you thinking about right now?”
“Mostly how happy I am you gave me another chance.”
Ah, now that’s old school scriptwriting! Junior High School note-passing scriptwriting to be exact. Here’s some of my own: “Pip, do you like this movie? [ ] Yes [X] No”
As they cruise around the canals of Miami, a duet breaks out between them. The song is another dose of flatline soul compost and sounds like something you might hear in the grocery store while you decide what dog food to buy. I think the song in called “Timeless” which is exactly what it isn’t. It doesn’t get any more neutral-sounding than this—the aural equivalent of an unbroken wall of slate-gray clouds over the slate-gray Atlantic on a calm day. Like all songs in this ‘musical’ however, it only plays a couple of minutes. Why?
Because the Plot-O-Matic has some more parallel plot thread futility to clank out, that’s why! This time it’s Kaya, who is back in the kitchen of Carlo’s restaurant chatting with her new beau. She wants to go out again. Carlos has to work. She is unhappy and when Carlo’s boss happens to walk by, she gets seriously into his face because she thinks Carlos is being overworked. He, being an Evil Capitalist who wants his employees to show up during the busiest time of the year, fires Carlos on the spot and stalks off. (Credit Where It’s Dueâ„¢: Carlos is distraught over the job loss. Before turning to run after his boss, he actually manages instill a little realism into these NutraSweet proceedings by delivering a quick dressing down on Kaya for being just a spring break ‘party girl’ who doesn’t understand that Carlos is [apparently] a recent immigrant who lives from paycheck to paycheck and whose job—one that most Americans would distain [me included]—is precious to him. I’ve always wondered how the generally-not-too-affluent-staff at these vacation resorts don’t get resentful around drunk and obnoxious kids from suburbia. But I digressâ€¦) He asks Kaya to stay away from him before going to beg for his job back.
Meanwhile, Justin and Kelly are disembarking back at the marina. Kelly seems to have been won over and, after exchanging calculating looks and a romantic handshake, they make plans to meet again later on that evening at the beach. You know, if the Soviets made teen beach movies*, they would have looked like this. From Josef to Khruchev maybe.
*Film Buff Ken: But they did! Or at least the East Germans did. Check out Hot Summer, it’s on DVD on it’s awesome. Also, dig up a copy of East Side Story, an incredibly bizarre documentary on Soviet and East German musicals. Seriously, you’ll be glad you did.
Cut to a beach bar wherein a banner proclaims that a “Margarita Madness” party is underway. I’m underwhelmed. I once went to equally ‘racy’ Margarita Madness-themed party. During the 8th grade. Put on by the nuns in the gym of St. John the Evangelist in Baltimore. It was fun.
Anyhow, Player is calling out to people like a midway barker, announcing a ten dollar cover to get in and take part in the wake-like ritual. The extras are lined up waiting to get in, looking every bit as excited as government employees coerced into giving blood. Alexis cuts in front of the line by giving Player a kiss and zips in, turning to laugh at the people waiting. In doing so, she isn’t watching where she’s going and runs into a server carrying a tray of glasses, getting some sticky red foofy drink poured over her. Mighty funny stuff. [Pip looks at watch]
Over to Nerdguy who’s hitting the beach to get a tan in order to impress his IM heartthrob. Despite Player’s warning, he lays out like a big helping of pale Yankee pot roast. Cutting forward to the next Nerdguy scene, we see he’s burned himself silly. He’s as red as a ripe tomato yet doesn’t realize it and walks down the beach while people gasp at his crimson hue. Take it from someone who knows how fair complexions and the sun (don’t) mix: if you burned yourself this bad, you’d be sporting a fever and it’d be ER time stat.
A brief interlude: the three girls are laying out. Kelly gushes how happy she is that she and Justin are getting together that evening. Alexis acts all surprised that Kelly would fall for such a transparent ploy by such an obvious player as Justin. Kelly asserts that Justin is different. Alexis is doubtful. Kaya and Kelly get on her for being a ‘party girl’ and not understanding that Kelly wants a nice guy. Tartgirl is unhappy at being labeled a ‘party girl’—despite being a total blonde flooze—and after a bit of pouting decides to text message Justin pretending to be Kelly. She tells him to show up at a bar instead of the beach.
With this bit of boneheaded opÃ©ra bouffe behind us, it is time to build up the next dance scene. Alexis is vamping it up—such as the movie allows—at what looks like some new wave hipster bar, part Logan’s Run, part the Milk Bar in A Clockwork Orange. This erupts into a fairly somnolent number stolen right from Madonna’s “Material Girl” video. OK, since Kelly or Justin aren’t in the scene, I admit Alexis and the other people are fairly acceptable dancers. The song is terrible however, repeating the refrain “I’m gonna wish upon a star, I’m gonna go a little too far” so many times that I thought it was some rap music sample run amok.
At the end of this, Alexis slides back onto her chair at the bar just in time for Justin to bumble in and ask where Kelly is. She acts surprised, claims she doesn’t know, and ask him to sit down with her. There’s some prattle, which I can briefly summarize as Alexis saying that Kelly is a nice girl and party-boy Justin should move on, causing Justin to deliver some empty-headed poppycock about how Kelly is the girl for him forever. Wow, you know, being accused of being a party person on this beach really is the scarlet letter of shame, absolvable only by professing your eternal love for a person you’ve exchanged about fifty words with. Where is this beach anyway? Iran?
Anyway, Justin leaves. As we’ll later see, Alexis, in a huff, apparently hatches a plan to call in Luke—the Texas roadhouse dude from the beginning—to sabotage this red-hot romance Justin and Kelly have going. She’d better hurry! They might actually hold hands or something if she doesn’t stop this right now.
Kelly, because of the text messaging skullduggery, ends up at the beach alone. Really alone—the beach is so empty it might as well be in Newfoundland. Somehow I doubt the beach in Miami would be entirely empty like this prior to midnight during Spring Break. Kelly has this do that makes her look like the Chiquita Banana Woman. Oof. And Kaya shows up becauseâ€¦well, because the characters seem to follow each other around a lot in this movie. They commiserate about how Justin really is a party horndog trog and a jerkaholic and a dastardly stander-upper of good girls. Oh, like who cares what they say, really. Kaya encourages Kelly to join her at some party.
Cut to Eddie the Nerdguy who is back at Casa del Luzas when a knock stirs him to the door. When he opens it, he’s punched in the face. He stumbles back into the room, doing a pratfall over the rollaway bed. Storming in comes a big guy who, through his bellowing, identifies himself as the boyfriend of hitherto (and henceforth) unseen woman named Inga, apparently a previous romantic conquest of Player. Making the inevitable mistake, he seems doubly enraged that a guy with no game like Eddie would have been able to steal his girlfriend away from him.
Eddie threatens to jump out a window if the big guy comes any closer, pathetically reasoning that he’s such a loser that all the trouble that would subsequently come down on the big guy’s head wouldn’t be worth the hassle. First off, I hate when people don’t stand up for themselves and call themselves losers—anybody who even tried to hit me like that would have a 5’1″ can of red-headed whoopa$$ opened on them. Second, if that big guy really had hit Eddie in the face, he would have probably knocked Eddie’s head clean off.
When we next run into Eddie, he’s sitting in a cabana drinking a beer with the big guy, who is introduced via flatline dialogue as Craig. Well, I think it’s beer—both guys appear to purposely hold the bottle labels away from the camera. Craig nervously laughs that he can’t believe he’s having a beer with the guy who stole his girlfriend. Eddie dispenses with a little relationship advice, trying to keep Craig—who seems to be pondering whether or not to pound Eddie after all—from getting excited with forced cheer and rambling. Isn’t this some funny stuff? Player scores the girl and Nerdguy gets thumped for it! Despite the fact he’s a Nerdguy! When will the madcap hilarity end?!? Watching this, the three of us sat quietly and completely expressionless, like twentysomething versions of the statutes on Easter Island. This scene is a little weird also, like the Plot-O-Matic can’t quite figure out what it wants the robots on the screen to do. At one point when Eddie’s face is turned away, Nerdgirl walks by.
Now where were we? Oh yeah, we were about to cut to another snoozer soul number beside a pool. After some blah blah between the girls about how bad Justin’s been treating Kelly (what?), they attempt what sounds like a cover of “R-E-S-P-E-C-T” with an associated dance routine, shambling around like a squad of 6th graders doing their first routine of “Everybody Dance Now” for their parents on public-access.
Luke appears, grabbing Kelly and stealing a kiss before professing his love. Justin, of course, only sees the kiss from afar, but not Kelly pulling away in surprise. Gee, another canned misunderstanding. This leads to a confrontation between Luke and Justin, which, of course, they have to settle via some moronic masculine competition. In real life, these chest-beating gorilla fests are always—without exception—eye-rollingly stupid and usually dangerous and criminal to boot. But the movie ups the ante of inanity by having Player suggest that instead of having them settle this with a old-fashioned fistfight (which, sinner that I am, I admit I’d like to see because Justin would get belted silly), they joust with personal hovercrafts while throwing balls into the back of each other’s boat. No, really. I couldn’t make something like that up.
This idiocy plays itself out for awhile as they roar around floating obstacles. It turns out Luke is all hat and no cattle. The two craft almost collide and Luke is sent a-tumblin’ like a tumbleweed butt-over-teakettle into the sea. Justin makes it to shore, gives us a husky toughguy pose as he dismounts, and watches as lifeguards pull Luke’s sputtering carcass out of the Atlantic. What we’re supposed to swallow here is that a native Texan has lost a competition combining football skills and operating loud, gas-guzzling pieces of useless machinery. I’m not buying it.
The movie clanks on. After the spray settles, Kelly LJBFs Luke again and Officer Cutler—the hottie cop—appears, citing Player for running numbers on the Ski-Doo race. I don’t know the criminal code all that well, but I think that this, taken in conjunction with his previous run-ins with the local blue, would more than likely lead to his arrest.
Let’s see, what else? Kaya goes to Carlos to apologize, and he, in turn angrily shoos her away. Skipping ahead a bit, this sets up the obligatory apology scene wherein Carlos goes to Kaya and apologizes for being a jerk to her. You know it’s a Chick Flick when there’s a whole lotta apologizing going on. This leads to Carlos taking Kaya out on a candle-lit dinner. Carlos is probably the cutest guy in the movie. Call me a sucker for Latin kings, but I have to say, the rest of these guys aren’t firestarters.
Oh, and going to the well twice with the same creaky clichÃ©, Alexis sidles up to Justin, getting all kissy face on him as Kelly looks on aghast from afar, and she mistakenly believes that Alexis and Justin are tight. Despite the fact that afterwards Justin recoils from the blondroid. Despite the fact that Luke had just done the same thing to her. Then Alexis goes to Kelly, explaining to her that Justin was just using her as a footstool girl to step up to Alexis. What an improvement.
Plot threads continue to unravel. Eddie the Nerdguy is next seen in a bar looking for his Internet love-interest. No luck. Just go download some pictures, Eddie.
Back to the Justin and Kelly saga, which I’m sure had everybody on the edge of their seats in the theatreâ€¦waiting to spring for the door. Justin catches up with Kelly. He gets angry when Kelly says that she was shocked—shocked—that she saw him kissing Alexis. This movie really is the personification of the Idiot Movie taken to the absolute limit. What Iscove has done is taken the romantic comedy ‘faux misunderstanding’ ploy far past the breaking point. No sentient beings could possibly be this stupid. Once again, a scriptwriter is so lazy that instead of dialogue or clever plot mechanisms to instill the necessary obstacles for a romantic comedy, we get repeated use of some of most threadbare plot contrivances imaginable.
OK, let’s wrap this up. Kelly finds herself poolside with the other girls. Through a slip by Alexis, she finds out about the text-messaging chicanery that has driven this ridiculous story masquerading as a plot after scrolling through the cell phone’s memory. R2-Alexis beeps out some explanation that she did it because she felt like Mrs. Runner-Up to Kelly and that she was feeling insecure and that—secretly—wallflower Kelly has always made her feel hollow and that, despite being popular, she has always felt she was in Kelly’s shadow. All of this is pure fiction, unfettered by any anchor in reality. If any of the most attractive of my peers in high school and undergraduate school envied me, they hid it well.
After Alexis comes clean, Kelly and Justin meet up finally for the big reconciliation. This hideous rite is carried out by having Kelly off pining for Justin by her lonely little self poolside, singing over some maudlin piano drivel a paean for her lost love called—according to the credits—”Anytime.” Justin appears, having been sent by a repentant Alexis, and joins in the song. Oh no. It’s a love duet. As the two sing over the swelling crescendo of mystery string schmaltz, we get a working definition of the word ‘overwrought.’ Now, we’ve heard some really terrible stuff up to now. But “Anytime” takes the cake. It is, without a doubt, the sappiest, thickest, most pathetic weeper I’ve ever had the misfortune to suffer through. How do I describe Justin and Kelly’s love ballad duet? Let me count thy ways:
I can’t take it anymore! Who thought this was any good? How did mall-dwelling moppets milk a movie contract from Total Garbage? Guess what, you brain-dead open-mic-night morons, the Emperor’s not wearing any clothes, there is no Santa Claus, and the only talent Justin and Kelly had was ripping off all you American Idol-watching suckers while the thinking people of this great land pointed at you and laughed.
OK, I feel better now. There are a couple of penultimate scenes to tie up a couple plot threads. Nerdguy Eddie meets his Nerdgal flame. Officer Cutler appears with her hair down and impresses Player Brandon. They appear ready for some (of course) offscreen romp. Alexis and Kelly even look to have patched things up to some extent.
Then, somewhere here near the end comes the final travesty, a poolside dance routine featuring another hideous cover, this time of “That’s the Way I Like It” from K.C. and the Sunshine Band, sang by all six of the primary characters and played with all the punch of a cellphone ringtone. A strong case could be made that this is the worst song ever recorded. Kelly struts her stuff in this torn top that looks likes she’s wearing a miniaturized version of those hanging scrubber things you see in an automatic car wash. The choreography here once again has Justin and Kelly as the centerpieces—not a good idea at all, I’m afraid. Some real dancers move on the perimeter, threatening to inject some talent into this flavorless morass of overcooked R&B, but luckily Iscove and Travis Payne, the choreographer, keep them off to the side so as not to excite us in any way while the nursing home rock blares and the credits roll.
“And the Angel of the Bored appeard to ye losers who sup at thy barrel bottom and ye dwellers of thy cellars, and spake of sounds unholy in thy musical artes. For it is sayd that, lo talent may be absent, but some artistes may deny such, and attempt to gain thy fame without such. And so, shall it be written, that for the course of thou unholy musical, as far removed from that which is listenable as the Heavens shall allow, thy roadhouse Karaoke-singin’ mall rats shall be inspired to concoct tunes—poems of such foul wretchedness as to fill the nostrils of the God-fearin’ folk of thy kingdom. And a pox and fury shall inhabit the land, and thy fame shall flee on feet of flames. So shall it be done.”
What horrible music! I can’t imagine less memorable beats in a musical then what I just suffered through. In fact, only the two covers stand out and that’s because both just about sent me running out of the room with my hands over my ears. Not since Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band: the Movie has a musical dished up such flame-broiled garbage. It’s sugary. It’s nauseating. After watching this, I felt like someone had popped a loaded cake-frosting gun in my mouth and pulled the trigger.
And what about that singing? Eh. I’ve never really gone in for the Mariah Carey histrionic school of swill. I mean, is it too much to ask that somebody actually hold a note for a beat or two before trilling up and down the scales like a cat walking on the piano? And while, unlike my sister, I’m certainly not a singer—possessing a set of pipes that puts the ‘tinny’ in tinnitus and freely admitting to sounding like Dee Dee from Dexter’s Laboratory—could we please retire the ersatz R&B and hip hop genres for just a couple of years? The songs on the American Idol TV show are even worse and fairly representative of Top 40 radio today—sappy ballads with giggle-inducing love lyrics and crescendos that go nowhere except way—waaaay—over the top. Or flippant misandry bleated over synthetic R&B. How about some classical pieces or, in the case of movies like this, something more upbeat and pop-like? Of course, if it ends up sounding like that ghastly Go Gos cover, then forget I said anything.
Maybe I’m being too hard here. After all, this movie was supposed to be for girls looking for a quickie summer movie right? I mean, in the end, who really lost?
We did. That’s who. This movie embodied marketing gone mad. Trash. Look, no one cares about the story in a movie like this. Not at all. This movie spends so much of its time with these completely predictable vignettes that the main courses—the singing and dancing—suffer hugely. Contrast this to the (by comparison) absolutely wonderful Chicago, where the story was told through the songs with smaller breaks of dialogue.
And finally, we have Justin and Kelly dancingâ€¦wowâ€¦who thought this was a good idea?
I may not be a singer, but I can dance and I know choreography. The secret to a great dance scene involving film actors is to allow the real dancers to shine and to mix in the ‘non-dancer’ actors in a fairly natural way*. This is exemplified by West Side Story**. In West Side Story, director Jerome Robbins chose real dancers for the difficult and highly energetic dance numbers. Dancer Rita Moreno is the prime example, as she moved with grace and conviction. On the other hand, Natalie Wood (for the uninitiated, she is the star that played “Maria”) was given relatively simple steps to execute for her small dance number, and she looked OK***. Dancing with conviction and ease shows comfort with the choreography and can make a dance number fabulous.
*Editor Ken: Like in Sextette?
**Editor Ken: Oh.
***Buttinksi Ken: Actually, this holds true for martial arts movies, too. Watch the stairwell fight in Mortal Kombat for a prime example. The main star is given a lot of extremely complex moves, second banana Lindsey Anderson (Johnny Cage) is assigned somewhat less elaborate fight choreography, and the actress playing Sonya is, if you pay attention, given about one move at a time to perform. However, careful editing makes them all seem—almost—equally adept at kicking ass.
Here, the dance scenes are a choreographic combination of the 70’s electric slide mixed with copious amounts of sexual contact. As modern day musicals go, the dancing could certainly have been better. However, the demographic that this film was obviously geared for probably applauded the film’s dance choreography and execution. The film showcased pre-teen drill-team dance moves—moves which are, in actuality, glorified line-dancing. I’m not sure what the choreographer was thinking by having the stars of the show attempt dance moves that were too difficult for them (perhaps the director was so heavy-handed that he demanded that the choreographer showcase his singing/acting ‘talent’ in the dance routines). However, I do know that the result was absurd, looked unnatural, and was therefore unconvincing. To use the old line—as a dancer, Kelly makes a pretty good singer.
This phenomenon is actually made worse by the fact that the casting director had the foresight to hire some real dancing talent. The break dancers and the lone tap dancer are actually quite good, but for some reason none of the real talent was ever brought to the forefront. Also, the salsa dancers (in the bar) were talented and entertaining. But again, these gifted dancers were pushed off to the side to let the singing stars attempt their version of ‘dancing’ and this only for a brief couple of minutes each.
Lastly, this type of choreography, or lack thereof, is a poor representation of the world of dance. In scenes where one would expect that a theme could be forwarded through the use of lifts, turns, and quick-steps, we are instead ‘treated’ to bumping and grinding. Oh joy. ‘Freak dancing’ is not dancing. The blame for this cannot solely be placed on the choreographer, as he is only playing to his audience (which apparently consists of teenage girls, feeble-minded housewives, and college freshman girls). Unfortunately, this target audience mistakenly thinks that adding some pelvis and groping your partner are acceptable forms of dancing that the rest of us sane people wish to see. Gross. And weird—given the fact that the rest of the movie is as sterile as an episode of Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom.
Because I’m a complete idiot a thorough reviewer, I watched portions of the director’s narrative version of this bomb, which included Iscove prattling along with Justin and Kelly about the proceedings. Most of this sickening lovefest consisted of Justin and Kelly raving about how wonderful all this turned out to be and Iscove stoking their egos with fawning obeisance. Some sample dialogue:
Kelly: “This is really great!”
Justin: “Yeah, really really great!”
Iscove: “And you were great in it!”
I’ll leave you with a little epilogue. Like a voice rising from a foggy charnel pit, Kelly has been getting some checkout lane magazine covers of late and I heard her name touted for some network claptrap music event. I guess P.T. Barnum was right. Over a year after this movie came out and a couple years before it danced before my sleepy green eyes, I saw—quite by accident in an Edinburgh hotel—an old interview with Kelly Clarkson on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. Stewart, of course, savaged the movie mercilessly, but spared Kelly his forked tongue until she went off on obviously rehearsed monologue of praise of how wonderful From Justin to Kelly was and how great a director Robert Iscove is and so on. Stewart would have none of it, cutting her off and braying, “Kelly! Kelly! You don’t have to do this!”
The Critics Rave!
“It’s sad that after Moulin Rouge and Chicago worked so hard to resurrect the musical, From Justin to Kelly had to go and kill it all over again.”
—Phil Villarreal, Arizona Daily Star
“An 80-minute cavalcade of music-video-style numbers, strung together with long fits of dialogue for pretty, gym-toned androids who are given the names of characters.”
—Jan Stuart, Newsday
“The wrong movie was called From Hell”
—Scott Foy, Schlocktoberfest.Com
“One of the worst movies you’ll ever see—but it’s still not worth seeing.”
—Heather Havrilesky, Salon