Saturday, June 11, 2005

It Came from Netflix: From Justin to Kelly

When Pip reviewed the film at the Jabootu site, I decided to give the film a look and see if I had anything to add. Well, not really, but I never let that stop me. (Please note I wrote this before I read her piece, so any common points are an indication of great minds thinking alike. Well, OK, more like 'one great mind, and Ken.'

To my surprise, From Justin to Kelly engendered a certain affection from me for about ten minutes. First, it really seem a modern version of one of those old Frankie Avalon/Annette Funicello beach movies, not to mention stuff like Breakin’ from the ’80s. Second, although I’m not a huge fan of the genre, I like a good musical, and that breed has nearly disappeared from the screen. For some reason, people can watch robots and werewolves and whatever and not worry about it, but if somebody on screen breaks out in song, it sets off their ‘give me a break’ detector.

Sadly, my affection for the movie died a quick death. You expect films like this to be dumb, but not this dumb. Moreover, the last thing they should be is boring, and this film is boring in spades.

In my early, I’m-kind-of-digging-this phase, I liked the fact that the film wasn’t running away from being a musical. Songs comes fast and tedious (that’s one of the problems, ‘furious’ would have been a lot better) throughout, but I don’t think I have ever heard a more forgettable, lame collection of tunes in my life. Even the two cover songs, including the version of the Go-Gos “Vacation” that plays over the opening credits, have all the juice sucked out of them via low-energy arrangements. I’m not a fan of Xanadu or Grease, for instance (the latter a film I believe they tried to emulate here), but you listen to some of the songs and you can understand why they became big hits. There’s nothing remotely like that here.

For an 80 minute film, this proves a slog. There are way too many characters—both Justin (I guess the runner-up in the first American Idol) and Kelly (the winner of said event) come equipped with a pair of computer issued sidekicks. For Justin, this includes the inevitable Horndog and the equally inevitable Nerd. For Kelly, we’ll talking the inevitable Nice Black Girl and the inevitable Blonde Slut.

All of the above get musical numbers, which again are plentiful if entirely uninteresting. Now, I must stipulate that I have very little ear for music. I will say that Justin struck me as a very competent singer, but about what you’d expect from any average member of any average boy band. Kelly Crawford, however, really has pipes (at least as far as I can tell). By the end I was really resenting the fact that the movie provides her no chance to open up and sing a really fun, high-energy song. Instead, pining ballads are the order of the day.

Blah blah blah. The film is full of dubious comic relief caulking the spaces between the songs. Nerd is trying to actually meet NerdGirl, an Internet chat room flame of his. They keep missing each other by inches. It’s ‘funny.’ Horndog is supposedly this great capitalist, but his huge spring break parties among the thousands of party-hearty kids keep making him sums like a grand. Wow! Don’t spend it all in one place. Then, when he gloats about these giant sums, a Busty Cop keeps showing up to issue him citations, which eat up all the bread he just made.

It’s ‘funny.’

Girls, of course, can’t be played for comedy relief, so Nice Black Girl has an up and down romance with a Handsome Hispanic Local. Meanwhile, appallingly, Blonde Slut spends the entire movie attempting to sabotage the Love-at-First-Sight relationship of Justin and Kelly. This is the extraordinarily weak mechanism that is used to delay the two stars from getting together before the end of the movie. Unbelievably, Kelly instantly forgives her Iago-like friend after Blonde Slut makes a small gesture towards getting the two together.

There’s more, but it’s not worth getting into, and anyway, Pip has done that already. Hilariously, the whole thing ends up in a gigantic production number with hundreds of ‘dancers’ cutting a rug to “That’s the Way [Uh, Huh, Uh, Huh] I Like It,” which might well be the stupidest non-novelty song ever to become a hit. I was literally flabbergasted that that was the tune they decided to close their movie out with. I can only imagine that the final cut list was “That’s the Way [Uh, Huh, Uh, Huh] I Like It” and “Hot Blooded.” I’d like to think they considered “Convoy” too, but that was probably considered too highbrow a piece.

Moreover, they then proceed to suck all the cheesy life out of the song—which, let’s admit, is all it has going for it—with a whispering, low-tempo version of the tune. The film should have ended with a huge, high energy dance number like, well, “Fame” from Fame. Even the Breakin’ movies got that right. Instead, hundreds of people are indeed dancing away (sort of), but the relaxed arrangement of the song makes it like you’re watching the movie late at night and have the sound turned way down so as to not wake up your parents.

Part of this might be that I think they were going after twin audiences. I don’t know the demographics behind American Idol, but I know it gets what is now considered a huge audience. Therefore, I’m guessing there’s a goodly amount of older people who watch the show. With variety shows dead, you don’t really get much of a chance to just see people sing anymore.

If that’s the case, then I think they wanted to attract that same demographic to the movie (along with the kids), because it is innocuous beyond belief. Personally, a film that doesn’t emphasize sex is OK with me, but I’m hardly a part of that mass audience the film was presumably going after. Moreover, even I’ll admit that in this day and age, what with the WB and the Fox network, it’s pretty weird to make a sexless movie about young people at Spring Break.

So while there’s a constant amount of talking about ‘partying’ and ‘action,’ very little if at all of it appears to show up on the screen. Horndog does apparently nail a Swedish girl offscreen, as indicated by a few lines of dialogue and an exceedingly lame resultant ‘comedic’ plot thread. Nice Black Girl quite possibly sleeps with Handsome Hispanic guy, although they are quite coy about it. Blonde Slut is always putting it out there, but there’s no sign that she’s having any takers (uh, right). She’s apparently got quite an itch, but spends the entire movie trying to steal Justin, and thus doesn’t appear to get any.

Justin and Kelly, of course, are holding out for each other. For Kelly’s part, it’s because she’s Nobody’s Toy and a Nice Girl. She’ll give it up, but only to the man who gives her her props. She’s the one who inevitably protests the screen’s most G rated Whipped Cream bra contest ever (co-run by Justin over his objections, which of course she doesn’t know about). I guess this is meant to establish her feminist credentials, or some damn thing. Still, if you don’t dig that sort of action, Spring Break seems like a strange place to travel to. Good thing she didn’t see couples doing body shots, because her head would have likely exploded.

Meanwhile, they don’t want Justin to look like a loser, so he’s inevitably the highly successful party boy who’s finally tired of chasing skirt and now has found the One. Unlike the Nerd, he can get some. Unlike Horndog, he chooses not to. I guess that’s what makes it ‘romantic.’

What most kills the movie, even more than the incessantly boring song and dance numbers, is that it’s the very definition of what Roger Ebert dubbed an Idiot Movie. By that he meant a movie revolving around a plot device that can only be sustained if every single person in the movie is an idiot. Oddly, and presumably to allow for their zillions of duets, the feuding Justin and Kelly meet up constantly during the proceedings—pretty weird, given the presumed crowds and such—and yet never just say one of the several dozens sentences that would instantly lead to everything between them being cleared up.


At 1:27 PM, Anonymous twitterpate said...

" I’d like to think they considered “Convoy” too, but that was probably considered too highbrow a piece."

... and twitterpate alarms her neighbors by giggling insanely.

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