I have watched full seasons of American Idol. I have purchased multiple Kelly Clarkson albums. I have heard Justin Guarini’s cover of “Unchained Melody” (hasn’t everyone?). And yet, before this week, I had never watched From Justin To Kelly.
From Justin To Kelly is the rare piece of media that everyone can agree is The Worst. Here’s a line from its Wikipedia page: “This film is often regarded as one of the worst movies ever made.” Also on its Wikipedia page, its “See Also” section leads you to “Box office bomb” and “List of films considered the worst.”
But really, From Justin To Kelly represents an outlandishly bad marketing idea, the notion that American Idol viewers would want to watch its first season’s winner and runner-up co-star in a movie 80 minutes in length. As we all know now, nobody wanted that (including Clarkson, who has repeatedly said that she was forced to make this movie). But is From Justin To Kelly really that atrocious?
Here’s what I knew about From Justin To Kelly before I gave $3.99 to YouTube in order to watch it: it starred Kelly Clarkson and Justin Guarini, and they sing in it. That was literally all I knew. I didn’t remember the commercials or setting or songs involved, just the stink of its derisive release.
American Idol is ending this week. It felt right to watch From Justin To Kelly for the first time, and write about it. Join me, won’t you? (Click here if you also want to purchase the film on YouTube, if you don’t already own it on DVD, which you probably do.)
0:37 Okay so this opens with an aggressive zoom-in on Kelly Clarkson with a microphone in front of her face. She’s got incredible hair. She looks a lot younger. I feel a lot older.
0:55 She’s playing to an empty bar (or bar/restaurant)! Kelly Clarkson is not successful at this point of From Justin To Kelly. LITTLE DOES SHE KNOW…
1:31 Oh, she’s a waitress at the bar, and she has a cowboy admirer whose name is Luke and who compares himself to Hurricane Luke (“Pretty soon I’m gonna blow you over!”). Fair. Kelly looks like she’s in pain delivering this dialogue. Also she’s wearing a shirt that just says “K” on it, which is a normal thing to wear.
2:08 There’s already a lot of plot construction going on here! So Kelly’s friends need a ride to spring break in Miami and Kelly is not down to help. But one of her friends bought 23 (!) bikinis for the occasion! Can they convince Kelly Clarkson to escape her dead-end job in this dead-end town and party in the city where the heat is
on named Justin Guarini?
2:37 Yeah they already convinced her.
3:31 Kelly just sounds miserable covering the Go-Go’s “Vacation” for this film. I dare you to find a less happy version of Kelly's “Vacation.”
4:23 ENTER GUARINI. His first line is “Dude, this year’s spring break is gonna ROCK!” I’m delirious. He’s with two friends, one who is a Bro and is scheming about whipped cream bikini contests or something, and the other is this dude:
Sure. He talks about “cyber-chatting” with some girl. He is a NERD, don’t get it twisted ladies!!
5:40 Why isn’t Justin Guarini a movie star? He’s got a soothing voice, a charismatic smile and fun hair. Shouldn’t Justin be halfway to an EGOT by now?
6:15 There are guys bench-pressing in the crowd at a rap concert on the beach. VERY cool. Seems like a musical number is coming up.
6:48 Here we go, the first musical number. The theme of this song seems to be “You are good-looking and we are on a beach, let’s dance close to each other, maybe!” I like it.
7:11 First Guarini falsetto.
8:26 First Guarini… trying to revive Kelly as they dance together?
8:30 Heeeeeere we goooooo
8:52 The song that’s being played right now sounds like a mediocre Jagged Edge song: boilerplate R&B with lyrics like “All we wanna do is rock it when the bounce is right” and DJ scratching. It’s amazing how far Kelly’s sound has progressed from that awkward “Miss Independent” faux-sultriness.
10:21 So now there’s another scene where Justin’s lunkhead bro friends are trying to meet girls, and once again, Justin is saying and doing very little! Maybe he’s not the incredible actor I perceived him to be? Or maybe he’s just the strong, silent type? Yeah, it’s probably that.
10:40 First Guarini BEATBOXING.
11:22 The bro-ier of Justin’s two friends just mooned Kelly and her friends (remember mooning, AKA sexting for grandpas?), and… a security guard on the beach… asked for his identification? Justin looks amused. We all are!
12:45 Kelly’s friend just said that the “guy with the curly hair” on the beach was “so cute”! She means Justin! SHE MEANS JUSTIN!
Kelly looks amused. We all are!
13:26 “This one’s special, man—I’m gonna find her,” quoth Justin Guarini about a cute girl he revive-danced with on the beach for eight seconds. Is this what this movie is about? Justin turning Spring Break into his own Cinderella story?
13:42 Haha look at how NERDY and LAME Justin’s LAME NERD friend is
15:18 Kelly and Justin are now at a breakdancing party (?) singing a song about how they desperately want to find each other after eight seconds of revive-dancing on the beach, and this song is… kind of a banger? The chorus oddly reminds me of “Return of the Mack.” I’m sold!
15:52 Quick aside: Did people make fun of Justin Guarini’s hair back in the day? If so, why? It’s sort of incredible, like Justin Timberlake’s blonde curls on steroids. I don’t have curly hair, but if I did, I’d 100 percent have requested the Guarini in 2003.
17:33 A bunch of girls are physically fighting each other over bracelets that get them into Justin Guarini’s party?
17:55 This is such weird dialogue!
JUSTIN: “Oh, hey! We met at the beach, right?”
KELLY: “Yeah. My friends call me Kelly for short.”
At least they finally found each other (after seven minutes). And did so in a ladies’ bathroom?
18:38 Kelly made a penis joke! Take that, PG rating!
18:50 Kelly just threw Justin Guarini out of a window! Take that, Justin Guarini!
20:33 Uh-oh, it looks like Kelly’s friend also likes Justin. She should know she has zero chance of landing that luscious head of hair. This is not called From Justin To Kelly’s Friend!
21:40 Luv u 2003
22:30 Shit, Kelly’s mean friend is trying to thwart Kelly and Justin’s love! She’s basically the film’s Brian Dunkleman. (This joke is from 2003.)
24:54 Hmmm, I guess we are getting a plot line about Kelly’s other friend (played by the awesome Anika Noni Rose, it’s worth noting) and her sexy new companion, a waiter with big muscles and a bigger heart. That’s fine, as long as it doesn’t detract from Justin… or Kelly.
26:11 Just looked it up because I was bored by this dance sequence: Anika is playing a college student but was 31 when From Justin To Kelly came out. She looks incredible.
28:39 Okay so here’s what’s going on: Kelly’s mean friend (not Anika, she’s cool) keeps getting texted by Justin Guarini and also apparently hates Kelly, so instead of connecting Kelly and Justin like a normal human, she enters Kelly into a whipped cream bikini contest. Kelly is protesting, but muscly dudes won’t let her leave the bikini contest? That seems misguided of the muscly dudes?
29:08 And now Justin Guarini is pressuring her into the whipped cream bikini thing? What the hell is going on??
29:20 KELLY GETS HER REVENGE.
31:26 Justin and Kelly are back together, but Kelly is pissed at Justin for being a Party Bro. It’s a shame that Kelly is forced to play the spring break shrew in this movie, because Kelly Clarkson actually seems like a blast to hang out with! Maybe From Justin To Kelly would have been a smash if she had played the fun-loving one and Justin was the one who needed to “unclench,” as the kids say (in this film, nowhere else).
32:02 Justin spills hot sauce all over Kelly and then sputters, “I promise, I’m slightly less dorky than you think.” Classic Justin.
34:05 Justin and Kelly are now on a boat for some reason. I guess Kelly isn’t mad at him anymore? Justin says, “Look. There’s definitely something going on. Between us. Know what I mean.” That’s exactly how he says that sentence.
34:10 Oh shit, Justin just started serenading Kelly. Here, this part is online:
It probably sucked when Kelly and Justin started filming this movie and immediately found out that they have zero romantic chemistry, and then the producers were like, “Too bad, this is the movie, it’s called From Justin To Kelly, you have to be in it.” They’re obviously two talented vocalists, but asking them to carry a feature film based solely on coming in first and second on a reality show… yeah, not the best idea!
37:50 Ugh this Anika Noni Rose storyline is dreadfully boring. Will she find love despite inadvertently getting Waiter Guy fired? Stay tuned, I guess.
38:17 Will they kiss?
WILL THEY KISS?
Nope. Handshake. Damn.
41:26 It looks like Kelly’s Mean Friend is having some sort of metamorphosis and has realized the errors of her party-girl ways. Honestly, she’s fine! Kelly and Anika are the outliers for falling in love on spring break in Miami.
41:35 False alarm! Mean Friend just texted Justin the wrong address to meet Kelly at! Mean Friend stays being mean.
42:49 Nerdy Guy got really sunburned. Who doesn’t love a good sunburn joke?
43:26 Mean Friend gets a dance number that’s suspiciously similar to Gwen Stefani’s “Make Me Like You” video. Gwen has some explaining to do, I guess.
44:32 This song is train-wreck awful. Imagine a Willa Ford song but 80 times worse.
48:15 The trap has been set by Mean Friend. Operation Guarini Martini is underway.
48:55 Mean Friend tells Justin of Kelly, “So she hasn’t mentioned her boyfriend back at home?” Mean Friend’s got claws! Justin isn’t buying it, though. But Mean Friend just called someone mysterious!
I’m… starting to check out on From Justin To Kelly. I need a solid musical number pronto.
51:37 Nice! A solid musical number, with Kelly and Anika deciding to fight fire with fire by dressing up to party. Kelly is in “I Do Not Hook Up” mode. This is promising.
51:57 Whoops, Justin Guarini gets shoved into a pool.
52:48 This is actually an impressive, dare-I-say memorable performance. Even if the choreography is supremely clunky, Kelly and Anika sound inspired together. Justin is floating in a pool somewhere. Everything is working out.
53:57 Oh shit, plot twist! The cowboy guy, “Hurricane Luke” Luke, has showed up to suck face with Kelly and throw Justin for a loop. Mean Friend is delighted for having orchestrated such shenanigans.
54:04 Hahahaha Luke calls Justin Guarini “Sideshow Bob.” A dated burn, but a good burn nonetheless.
54:27 Wow this plot is moving so fast now after not existing at all. Apparently Justin must face off against “Hurricane Luke” in a beach hovercraft beanbag showdown (?) to win Kelly’s heart or something. This doesn’t make any sense whatsoever, but I am wholeheartedly rooting against Justin, especially since Luke dishes out some good burns and gave himself a pretty dope name nickname in the first minute of this film.
56:25 Luke is hurt in the hover-crash and we are asked to care about a character we have watched for approximately 90 seconds. It’s been several minutes since we heard any Guarini singing.
57:20 Kelly blows off Luke. Bye Luke.
58:21 There are approximately 20 minutes left in this movie. Here’s what I hope happens:
1. Big dance number
2. Justin-Kelly kiss
3. Nerd says “cyber-chatting” again
4. Randy Jackson cameo?
5. Sea levels rise at spring break, Party-Planning Bro drowns
59:26 “We probably won’t get a sequel, Justin”
1:01:50 Everything worked out for Anika and Waiter Guy. Great! But what about from Justin… to Kelly? Mean Girl kissed Justin sloppily in front of Kelly, and Kelly got the wrong idea. Now she’s looking bummed out on the beach. Spring break forever? Or spring break… never?
1:03:26 Nerd Guy is going around asking girls if he met them on the Internet, correctly predicting Twitter culture years before Twitter was invented.
1:05:05 Kelly found Mean Girl’s prehistoric text messages to Justin and figured out what we all already knew: Justin Guarini is a prince, and he would never hurt Kelly. Mean Girl is toast. Now Justin must be found, before spring break… breaks our hearts.
1:07:19 Oh neat, a Kelly solo song! Great showcase of Clarkson’s range, and although the tracking shots are very High School Musical-y, they get the job done.
1:09:20 Justin’s back, awesome, now freaking kiss the woman that won more votes than you, dude.
1:10:13 Stop singing to her and kiss her, man!
1:13:00 It’s nice how everything worked out. Justin got Kelly, Nerd Guy got his Internet Lady, Bro Dummy got his smmmmmokin’ hot security guard temptress (?), and the beach hovercraft crashed into the other beach hovercraft. Almost time for one last big dance sequence?
1:13:29 Time for one last big dance sequence!
There’s some flips, some white-guy rapping, seductive Guarini poses and rainbow flags flying, all set to “That’s The Way (I Like It).” It’s all sort of dumb and awkward and dated and charming, just like the rest of From Justin To Kelly. Even if it’s a shameless cash grab, its heart is two young talents trying to make it past reality TV obscurity. One did; the other didn’t. But for 80 goofy minutes, they shared a stage, a movie title, a lot of graceless dialogue and a kiss. You were bad, From Justin To Kelly, but you were a fun bad.