From Justin To Kelly

on June 20, 2003 by Paul Clinton
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A marshmallow of a musical, "From Justin to Kelly" immediately recalls the beach party movies of the 1960s that starred Annette Funicello and Frankie Avalon. Just as Funicello was plucked from Disney's TV hit "The Mickey Mouse Club," Kelly Clarkson and Justin Guarini make it to the bigscreen following their appearances on the televised pop star competition "American Idol," which Clarkson won, with Guarini placing second.

Unabashedly reliant upon name recognition, the filmmakers have Clarkson and Guarini playing characters named Kelly and Justin, who meet on a South Florida beach during Spring Break as they party with their pals. Playful flirting in this sexually scrubbed film leads to a deeper bond; the two dodge obstacles before locking lips as the credits roll.

These two may not be able to carry off a top-tier musical, but their refreshing lack of pretension goes a long way toward making this a somewhat enjoyable beach romp. Clarkson is the better singer, but both have an appealing, shoot-from-the-hip performing style that carries the love songs.

It's all rather painless at 81 minutes (75, if you don't sit through the lengthy credits), but the slapdash execution kills any chance of being memorable. Director Robert Iscove ("She's All That" and "Boys and Girls") shows his aptitude for setting up the songs but clearly needs to improve his mise en scene. A brutal lighting scheme, for example, shrouds important dialogue scenes in darkness.

Fans of the television show may show up for this one, but given that an "American Idol" sequel has already ended its run, audiences are likely to find it stale. Starring Kelly Clarkson and Justin Guarini. Directed by Robert Iscove. Written by Kim Fuller. Produced by John Agoglia. A Fox release. Musical/Romantic comedy. Rated PG for thematic elements, sensuality and brief language. Running time: 81 min

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