The truth behind Kelly Clarkson's biggest flop

Kelly Clarkson's career has already been pretty iconic. In addition to being the first-ever American Idol winner, Clarkson's also snagged three Grammys and released eight studio albums. On top of all that, she hosts her own talk show, serves as a coach on The Voice, and landed a Las Vegas residency for 2020. While she's had plenty of success, there is one item on her résumé that she'd probably rather forget. That would be 2003's From Justin to Kelly, starring Clarkson and Idol runner-up, Justin Guarini.

The musical movie earned a 10% critics' score on Rotten Tomatoes and won a cringe-inducing Razzie Award for "distinguished underachievement in choreography." It has a measly 2.1 stars out of 10 on IMDb, and the reviews when the movie came out were rough to say the least. Although it's easily the biggest flop of Clarkson's career, things could definitely be worse — it's not like she had an album tank or anything like that. Now, let's reminisce about the beach-themed, cinematic blunder, shall we?

Reviews for 'From Justin to Kelly' were seriously harsh

In From Justin to Kelly, Kelly Clarkson and Justin Guarini play "slightly fictionalized versions of themselves", according to Rotten Tomatoes' synopsis of the movie"When Kelly (Clarkson) and Justin (Guarini) embark on a vacation in search of some fun in the sun with their respective groups of friends, the two meet and fall for each other at first sight," the description reads.

Per Rotten Tomatoes, the Boston Globe's Wesley Morris wrote, "What's depressing about From Justin to Kelly... is that it's been made without a lick of love, skill, or, apparently, money." Meanwhile, the New York Daily News' Jack Mathews said, "Easily the worst beach movie ever made." Owen Gleiberman from Entertainment Weekly summed it up as such: "Set in Miami during spring break, it's like Grease: The Next Generation acted out by the food-court staff at SeaWorld." Yikes, that's definitely not a compliment.

Sparks flew between Kelly Clarkson and Justin Guarini off-screen

While From Justin to Kelly might not have found box-office success, it did lead to a brief romance between the two stars post-filming. During an appearance on Watch What Happens Live With Andy Cohen in March 2015, Kelly Clarkson was asked about Justin Guarini. She revealed, "We didn't date during Idol, which everybody thought... I feel like we weren't dating during the movie, [but] we did date a little bit." She also explained that when you spend so much time with someone, it's kind of inevitable, joking, "'Timeless,' you put that song on From Justin to Kelly, you can't fight it."

She brought up the subject a few years later during a "never have I ever" segment on The Kelly Clarkson Show, confirming again that she and Guarini "dated for a second." "It was more 'cause we were, like, shoved together, because we were the top two that season and we were doing all this press together. And it was a big, huge experience for two kids that had no idea that all was gonna happen." Nowadays, she refers to her former fling as her "buddy," so clearly there were no hurt feelings.

Kelly Clarkson cried about having to make 'From Justin to Kelly'

In a May 2015 interview with Rolling Stone, Kelly Clarkson admitted she doesn't own a copy of the movie — and she doesn't want her kids to ever watch it. "I have a little joke with our nanny, because she told me she loves that movie," she said. "She was like, 'My roommate and I used to watch it all the time! I'm totally going to show your daughter From Justin to Kelly.' I'm like, 'I will fire you.'"

Just to make sure her feelings were really clear, Clarkson told Yahoo Entertainment in November 2019, "I hate that movie." And she emphasized that she hates it "with every part of [her] being!" She explained, "I cried. I tried so hard to get out of that film." Whoever won her American Idol season was obligated to make the movie. Unlike Clarkson, Justin Guarini was actually interested in the idea. She recalled, "We were kind of hoping he'd win so I didn't have to! And then he loved it so they were like, 'Well, why don't we just make it the two of y'all?'" The movie was written by American Idol creator Simon Fuller's brother Kim, and Clarkson revealed they shot it in "like, 28 days."

Here's why 'From Justin to Kelly' didn't ruin Kelly Clarkson's career

In that same Yahoo Entertainment interview, Kelly Clarkson explained exactly why this flop didn't ruin her career — and it all comes down to standing up for herself. While she was contractually tied to From Justin to Kelly, she made a compromise with American Idol creator Simon Fuller. "I was like, 'Can you at least let me have my first single, and then the movie can come out? Just let me have a chance, before this completely ruins my chances,'" she recalled. 

That's why "Miss Independent" came out when it did. The song went "No. 1 for an insane amount of weeks," according to Clarkson, and she said, "Literally that deal... is what saved my career." And while she clarified she's not actually embarrassed by the movie (since she didn't have acting aspirations anyway), she was still was worried it'd "completely demolish any chance" at long-term success.

Clarkson definitely bounced back from the movie's failure. And at least there are some people out there (like Clarkson's nanny) who consider it a cheesy, cult-classic.