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Fox Home Entertainment presents
From Justin to Kelly (2003)

Luke: Why don't you back off, Sideshow Bob?
Justin: What did you call me?

- Christopher Bryan, Justin Guarini

Review By: Jeff Rosado   
Published: August 25, 2003

Stars: Kelly Clarkson, Justin Guarini, Katherine Bailess, Gregg Siff, Brian Dietzen, Anika Noni Rose
Other Stars: Jason Yribar, Theresa San-Nicholas, Christopher Bryan, Justin Gorence, Kaitlin Riley, Renee Robertson, Yamil Piedra
Director: Robert Iscove

Manufacturer: DVCC
MPAA Rating: PG for thematic elements, sensuality, brief language
Run Time: 01h:30m:01s
Release Date: August 26, 2003
UPC: 024543082811
Genre: musical

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
C+ C-A-B B

DVD Review

My name is Jeffrey and I'm an American Idol addict. Not to the point where I'm hiding in Paula Abdul's garbage can or anything like that, so don't worry. But if anybody out there has any connections with recent top ten finisher/walking dreamboat Kimberly Caldwell, I am open to duet possibilities.

(Hey, I have to use my media connections creatively every once in a while, folks.)

While I wait for her people to call my people, back to my guilty pleasure, the FOX network's pride and joy. Take the talent/variety show appeal of decades past, substitute hungry unknown singers in place of established performers, throw in a wildly diverse panel of gong-less judges (funky/folksy Randy Jackson, sweetly constructive Abdul, and the voice of reason himself, Simon Cowell), insert one super friendly/toothy host (Ryan Seacrest), then add the soap opera cliffhanger meets Survivor tactic of who will go on/who will depart at the hands of YOU, the viewing public and voilà! An addictive, kitschy pop culture entrée one can't feast enough on.

But wait. Listen. Do you hear what I hear? It's the sound of a backlash. Not sure how the old saying goes, but it's something along the lines of building idols up, only to tear them down. At the center of the barb hurling is 20th Century Fox's From Justin to Kelly, an obvious quickie exploitation musical starring the namesake sweethearts that finished in the top two of Idol's freshman year.

So, just how bad is it you ask? Surprisingly, it's not the disaster of Magical Mystery Tour-ish proportions most critics would have you believe. But in a rush to make a quick buck before Kelly and Justin become the basis of a future Trivial Pursuit question, the creative forces thought they could get away with an ill-conceived throwaway plot, which is precisely why this movie comes precariously close to the failing zone in my gradebook.

Clarkson plays a combination singer wannabe/waitress in a Texas dive who gets talked into a spring break getaway by her girl pals Alexa and Kaya (Katherine Bailess, Anika Noni Rose). Quicker than you can sing a chorus of Where The Boys Are, it's off to the sandy playground of Miami where their arrival coincides with that of three male sun and surf stereotypes, er, seekers, wanting to get in on their share of the action: all American boy Justin (Guarini), self-professed stud Brandon (Greg Siff), and techno-nerd Eddie (Brian Dietzen), who's about to have a long-overdue encounter with his internet girlfriend (been there, suffered through that; good luck, pal).

Thanks to a chance meeting in a ladies room where our mop-topped hero seeks shelter from overeager co-eds, Justin meets up with Kelly and the two hit it off quickly (which is good because there's only 75 minutes left on the movie meter). Not wasting any time, she promptly slips her cell phone number his way, then in typical fashion quickly informs her partners about the hottie she's just met. But the news doesn't wash well with vixenish, quick-change bikini goddess Alexa, who wants the unofficial winner of the Art Garfunkel hair-a-like contest all to herself. With more tricks up her sleeve than Snow White's wicked queen, she stops at nothing to keep our two star-crossed cuties apart (except during the musical numbers, of course).

For the first half hour or so, I held out hope that this big screen Idol spin-off would not coast on its musical safety net and become an innocuous slice of fun, not unlike those cheesy movie musicals of the 1970s/ and '80s (Roller Boogie, Can't Stop the Music, etc.). Unfortunately, stock characters, situations and clichés grow tiring quickly, making the second half quite the endurance test (a hovercraft duel is a true low point). If not for the quality of the production numbers and a couple of really good songs toward the finish line (Anytime being a major highlight and one of the best tracks on Clarkson's debut album, Thankful), I don't know if I could have made it. For a movie whose primary lure is the romantic interplay of its two stars, our sweethearts are barely together long enough to develop any sort of effective chemistry, which is a shame. Clarkson and Guarini prove to be as instantly likeable as they were on television and come across as very natural actors (ah, the wonders of those product placement skits on the show), so the potential for something better was truly there. So we're left to wonder just how much better From Justin to Kelly could have been if attention had been lavished on all aspects of its production, rather than having placed all the chips on the marquee value of its two namesakes. Instead, we're left with the visual equivalent of an overly spotty record album and forced to point the needle past filler in search of the good stuff on future replays.

Rating for Style: C+
Rating for Substance: C-


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.85:1 - Widescreen1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyesno

Image Transfer Review: Unless one pulls a Greg Brady and leaves a lens cap on the camera, it's hard to take a bad picture in Miami. Despite what must have been a penny-pinching budget, Francis Kenny's well-done cinematography looks very good here with little in the way of edge enhancement gremlins, good colors and a fairly sharp, film-like appearance. Although the tight shooting schedule makes the outdoor sequences spotty from time to time (a woe Iscove has fun with in the commentary), the crisp black levels of the nighttime sequences with the gorgeous location skyline and well-lit interiors come off the best.

Image Transfer Grade: A-


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
Dolby Digital

Audio Transfer Review: A slightly disappointing 5.1 mix where the nice front soundstage and pumping subwoofer elements are sometimes forced to do battle with the overly loud, echo-y surrounds. It's nothing a little knob twiddling can't rectify, but such adjustments shouldn't be necessary. Complaints aside, during moments when all the elements blend together effectively, it's not bad.

Note: Due to the extended cut/theatrical version options taking up a lot of digital real estate on the widescreen side, you will not be able to flip back and forth between commentary/film audio.

Audio Transfer Grade: B


Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 28 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, French with remote access
3 Deleted Scenes
1 Feature/Episode commentary by Director Robert Iscove, Kelly Clarkson, Justin Guarini
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
2-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extra Extras:
  1. Theatrical Version/Extended Cut Option (Widescreen Only)
  2. Video Scrapbook
  3. Center Stage with Justin and Kelly
  4. Singers Who Dance..Dancers Who Sing?
  5. Gag Reel
Extras Review: Given the large fan base of both performers, a healthy heaping of supplemental fare is no surprise. By far, the best of the extras is a group commentary pairing the marquee duo with director Robert Iscove. Given the circumstances of watching their big screen debuts for the first time, gaps of tongue-tied silence are forgivable, but when Clarkson and Guarini pipe forth with their thoughts and memories from the shoot, entertaining tales aplenty emerge, including the joys of playing warm and beachy in freezing temperatures, the uncanny similarities of Justin's real-life buddies mirroring his on-screen sidekicks, and Kelly's horror of watching herself squint during a romantic boat ride scene.

Those few attendees that enjoyed the film in theaters will be pleased to know that two additional musical numbers that didn't make the original cut (as well as a couple of additional scenes and restored trims to existing ones) have been added onto the widescreen side of the disc (a full-screen version is included on the flip). Brighter Star, a fun and well choreographed Broadway styled effort (reminiscent of Grease's Summer Nights) is the best of the two (lending credence to my thoughts of more music, less comedic clutter would have made for more satisfying results). Three behind-the-scenes mini-documentaries (Video Scrapbook, Center Stage with Justin and Kelly and Singers Who Dance...Dancers Who Sing?), three deleted scenes, and a laugh-challenged/time deficient Gag Reel (69 seconds from a four week shoot is all you guys could come up with?) round out the bonuses. Mostly fluff, but with a few moments of substance (Singers Who Dance... pays a well deserved tip-of-the-hat to the super talented choreographer, Taylor Payne) and the wide-eyed appeal of two kids having the time of their lives in their first film.

Extras Grade: B


Final Comments

The Simon Cowell in me wants to say, "They had their chance to shine...they didn't...not good enough," but I'd like to keep my charter membership in the Paula Abdul fan club unblemished. Witticisms aside, From Justin to Kelly does have its (mostly musical) moments; a charming, self-depreciating commentary and decent behind-the-scenes peeks will likely prove adequate selling points for fans of both singers. But Idol detractors and those with an unforgiving threshold for so-so musicals, you have been warned.


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