As it was designed to, “American Idol” has launched some great music careers, including those of superstars Kelly Clarkson, Chris Daughtry and Carrie Underwood. However, when it comes to acting, contestants have had mixed results, from Jennifer Hudson’s Oscar-winning performance in “Dreamgirls” to Clalrkson and runner-up Justin Guarini’s horrid “From Justin to Kelly” (a film that crashed so badly, it’s still regarded as one of the worst movies ever made).
This Friday, “Idol” winner Jordin Sparks makes her feature-film debut in “Sparkle” as an aspiring Motown singer. Will it lead to Oscar gold as it did for Hudson? Considering the film’s current Rotten Tomatoes score, it’s not likely.
So, in honor of Sparks’s role in “Sparkle,” let’s rank the acting skills of those who’ve made it to the big screen. (Apologies to Constantine Maroulis, Ruben Studdard and Fantasia, who’ve proven their acting chops, but only on the stage, TV or DVD.)
10. Kelly Clarkson (Winner, Season 1)
We love Kelly, but it’s probably a good thing this was her first and last acting gig (apart from some cameos and voiceovers). Like co-star Justin Guarini, she was nominated for a Razzie for this flop. <a href=”http://www.ew.com/ew/article/0,,452286,00.html” target=”_hplink”>EW said the movie was</a> “like Grease: The Next Generation acted out by the food-court staff at SeaWorld.”
9. Justin Guarini (Runner-Up, Season 1)
According to people who’ve actually watched “From Justin to Kelly,” Justin is <em>marginally</em> better than Kelly in the acting department. So even though his music career stalled out, Guarini would act again, in the 2008 indie film “Fast Car.” Here, he played the love interest to the racecar-driving heroine (sans those trademark curly locks). Unfortunately, his performance wasn’t much better than his Razzie-winning turn in the 2003 musical.
8. Becky O’Donohue (24th place, Season 5)
Maybe she didn’t need to appear on “Idol” to land bit parts like the no-named “Hot Girl” in “Fast and Furious” or one of Adam Sandler’s sexy exes in “I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry,” but it certainly didn’t hurt. Her most impressive credit? The character “Burger Waitress” in Sofia Coppola’s art house flick “Somewhere.”
7. Carrie Underwood (Winner, Season 4)
Country star Carrie may have killer pipes, but her turn as youth minister in 2011′s “Soul Surfer,” is “absolutely wooden,” <a href=”http://jacksonville.com/entertainment/matt-soergel/2011-04-08/story/movie-review-inspiration-comes-waves-soul-surfer” target=”_hplink”>one critic lamented</a>.
6. Kevin Covais (11th place, Season 5)
Dubbed “Chicken Little” during his time on “Idol,” Covais played his geekiness for laughs in the 2008 comedy “College.” Unfortunately, following it up with a small role in the 2009 Lindsay Lohan film “Labor Pains” probably wasn’t the wisest choice. And his screen presence now seems to be shrinking: His last role was as an intern in “Men in Black 3.”
5. Chris Sligh (10th place, Season 6)
The mop-headed contestant made his acting debut this year in “October Baby,” and also wrote and performed several songs on the soundtrack. His road-tripping character provided some comic relief to the pro-life indie, even making a joke about “Idol” being fixed.
4. Jim Verraros (9th place, Season 1)
Verraros was “Idol’s” first openly gay contestant — although he had to wait until he was off the show to officially come out. Verraros went on to star in the gay indie films “Eating Out” and “Eating Out 2.” The movies didn’t get much respect, but as Verraros’s own <a href=”http://www.jimverraros.com/Music_and_Film/Film.html” target=”_hplink”>official site proudly quotes,</a> “Out Magazine’s, Gary M. Kramer says, ‘Maybe it’s damning with faint praise, but the adorable Jim Verraros (of American Idol fame) gives the film’s best performance as a fourth side to this quirky love triangle.’” <strong>(Clip NSFW)</strong>
3. Tamyra Gray (4th place, Season 1)
Gray’s movie roles so far have focused mostly on her musical abilities, including a star member of the choir in 2005′s “The Gospel,” and as “Singing Friend” in 2008′s “Rachel Getting Married.” However, she did several episodes of “Boston Public,” <a href=”http://www.realitytvworld.com/news/amercian-idol-tamyra-gray-boston-public-run-extended-from-four-episodes-seven-1003.php” target=”_hplink”>and was considered good enough to get her run extended</a>.
2. Katharine McPhee (Runner-up, Season 5)
McPhee’s made it big on the small screen as a struggling actress in “Smash,” but she’s also made a splash in feature films, as pregnant Zeta member Harmony in “The House Bunny” and scantily-clad shark bait in “Shark Night 3D.” While critics were lukewarm on the horror film, <a href=”http://www.eonline.com/news/261798/movie-review-shark-night-3d-bites-and-not-in-a-good-way” target=”_hplink”>at least one critic called the cast</a> “uniformly solid.” Unfortunately, McPhee’s acting on “Smash” has drawn mixed reviews, <a href=”http://tvline.com/2012/04/17/smash-recap-season-1-episode-11-the-movie-star/” target=”_hplink”>with one naysayer saying</a> her range is “flatter than an Iowa cornfield.”
1. Jennifer Hudson (7th place, Season 3)
That Best Supporting Actress Oscar is a pretty convincing argument that Jennifer Hudson is the most talented big-screen actress to come out of “American Idol.” Hudson stole the show in “Dreamgirls” with her heartfelt turn as overlooked Effie (in addition to the Oscar, her performance won a Golden Globe and a BAFTA, as well). She’s also had roles in “Sex and the City,” “The Secret Life of Bees” and played Winnie Mandela in a 2011 biopic. We can look forward to an “Idol” showdown as she joins Katharine McPhee on “Smash” next season.
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