Love is waiting where you least expect it.
You may have heard about me. A few months before On The Line opened theatrically, I was already waiting in line. I'd taken a break from my job to sit with my friends and talk via the Internet to fans around the globe. The buzz about this film was incredible. Legions of fans had been waiting years to see this soon-to-be classic starring Lance Bass and Joey Fatone of *N'Sync. The budget swelled to over $130 million dollars with a marketing blitz teetering on $80 million dollars. Moviegoers were ready for a film that might just change the world as we know it…forever.
This film was an epic of biblical proportions. Yes, you guessed it—it was a sign of the pending apocalypse.
Dear Lord in heaven, what Hollywood executive thought that ANY of the *N'Sync players should be allowed to have free reign on the silver screen?!? Whoever it was probably now works at a local Menard's in Des Moines, as On The Line sank faster than Right Said Fred's musical career. Aside of including Bass (also a producer) and Fatone, On The Line also stars Richie Sambora of "Bon Jovi" fame, comedian Jerry Stiller, gospel crooner Al Green, and Kids In The Hall alumni Dave Foley, which is quite a cornucopia of acting talent. Anyhow, On The Line is now on DVD from Buena Vista Home Entertainment, and our lives are all the more richer because of it.
Facts of the Case
In a 1994 flashback, we learn that the Kevin Gibbons (Bass) has good looks, a killer smile…and shyness with women that borders on mild retardation. Whenever Kevin gets up the nerve to hit on a woman, he chokes. In 2001, Kevin is now a low-level advertising executive in downtown Chicago, but still lacks any faith in meeting women. His best friends, led by the obnoxiously annoying Rod (Fatone), all tend to make fun of him for his meekness. One day while riding the train, Kevin stumbles into a chance meeting with the beautiful and personable Abbey (Emmanuelle Chriqui, Snow Day). They both like Al Green. They both can recite past US presidents in order. I think it's fairly obvious—they're meant for each other in the worst way. On par with his dating record, Kevin parts ways with Abbey minus her name or number. His friends all think that he's a complete bonehead (I'm in agreement). Kevin decides that he doesn't want to be known as the guy who choked, so he rolls around town stapling "are you the girl from the train?" posters all over in a desperate attempt to contact his one true love. Suddenly Kevin's and his roommate's phones are ringing off the hook with women attempting to meet up with Kevin (now a semi-celebrity since his story was published in a Chicago newspaper). In a subplot at his workplace, Kevin's co-worker (Tamala Jones, Two Can Play At That Game) steals his ideas for a Reebok ad as his boss (Foley) continues to give him a hard time about his job performance. As Kevin's buddies start meeting each of the fabled women claiming to be "the one from the train," they dig themselves into deeper and deeper trouble when one girl actually turns out to be Abbey. Mix-ups and wackiness ensue as Kevin tries desperately to find the girl of his dreams…and put his heart On The Line.
I was obligated to write that last sentence by the love patrol.
Blander than Quaker oatmeal, On The Line is a romantic comedy (I'm using that word loosely) for those "lookin' po' 'nub in da wrong p'aces." This movie is like the first chapter in "Movie Marketing 101." Take a bunch of fleetingly popular pop stars, throw in a shoddy script, mix in today's hottest music, and stir well. I have the sneaking suspicion that the marketers behind this flop didn't really care if it was good or not—the important thing was that kids wanted to see it. Apparently something went wrong in their recipe since even rabid *N'Sync fans stayed far away from this fluffy dud.
So what went wrong? The first problem is this horrendously written script. Like the John Cusack heart thumper Serendipity (which opened around the same time), On The Line requires viewers to suspend their disbelief and assume that in a city as large as Chicago these two people will be able to find each without knowing each others names or numbers…twice. More frustrating is the fact that everyone in the film seems to be on the intelligence level with, oh, say termites. At one point in the film Abbey meets Eric (comedian GQ), one of Kevin's roommates, on a date. Of course, she quickly realizes that he's not Kevin. Instead of telling her about this situation, he just lets her go with the assumption that this is all Kevin's fault. To add insult to injury, Eric doesn't tell Kevin about this meeting with Abbey until the next day when they're playing baseball together (he mentions it as casually as you would a planter's wart on your pinky). As my daddy used to say, "Stupid people doing stupid things." The dialogue that peppers On The Line is equally as inane, most of it coming from Joey Fatone and his rear end (apparently someone thought that fans of the pop group would get a kick out of hearing Fatone's flatulence. They were wrong). Lance Bass as a leading man shows he has all the charisma of a poached egg. With his crooked smile and virtually cross-eyed look, Bass is a man who needs to take some serious acting lessons. In total I counted three expressions:
• Sad-eyed puppy dog face.
Fatone, the only boy band member that looks 35, is excessively obnoxious as Kevin's best friend. He's a fan of Bon Jovi, becomes spastic in front of a microphone, and farts for what seems like half of the movie. Doesn't Hollywood realize that by now most of us (including the teenage generation) are tired of fart/sperm/urine/bowel movement jokes? Comedian GQ as Kevin's other pal Eric is, shockingly, even more annoying than Fatone. Inhabiting the character of a hip-hoppin' woman's man, this actor is the reason the fast forward button was invented. Emmanuelle Chriqui is cute, but her character, like everyone else in the film, is limited to pouting over Kevin and peering longingly at the camera. As for the actual "actors" in the film (i.e., Dave Foley, Jerry Stiller), I have the feeling that this wasn't an artistic choice as much as a monetary one.
I want to go on record saying that On The Line is not nearly as bad as Mariah Carey's Glitter (and Glitter isn't half as bad as John Travolta's monumentally horrid Battlefield Earth, but that's a different and altogether much more frightening tale). The most I can say about On The Line is that during the end credits Justin Timberlake (a name I never thought I'd have to type in a movie review) and his crooning cohorts poke fun at themselves, showing that they at least have a sense of humor. Now they need to work on their sense of acting, timing, and script selection.
On The Line is presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. Miramax has done a fine job of creating a sound transfer that features only minimal flaws. Aside of a small amount of edge enhancement and digital artifacting in a few scenes, this is a very nice looking image that sports vivid colors, well saturated black levels and even flesh tones. I can't say that this looks to be the crispest, most exciting image ever created, but it works well in the context of the film.
The audio is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround in English and French. This is a fairly aggressive soundtrack that is boosted mainly by the pop songs featured in the film. There are some great moments of directional effects here, though overall this is a rather subdued soundtrack whenever the movie lulls into moments of dialogue or romance. The dialogue, effects and music are all free of any distortion or hiss. Also included on this disc are English Captions.
When I picked up my copy of The Green Mile the other day, it was practically a bare bones edition. Luckily, On The Line has made up for this by being a special edition with endless supplements on Lance Bass, Joey Fatone, and *N'Sync…and personally I couldn't care less. But, it's my job so here goes…
Starting off the disc is a commentary track by director Eric Bross and actress Emmanuelle Chriqui. I'll be honest in saying I only watched about half of this commentary track, as it became utterly redundant as the participants just went on and on and on and on about how good Lance was…how good Joey was…how good EVERYONE was. Apparently, these two don't realize they're watching a movie that was universally panned by critics and audiences alike. Just once I want the filmmakers and actors to watch their movie and just say, "You know, this movie really bites and in hindsight was a really bad career movie for everyone involved." Remember Hollywood, honesty is the best policy.
The eight-minute behind-the-scenes featurette includes interviews with director Eric Bross, Lance Bass, Joey Fatone, Emmanuelle Chriqui, producer Wendy Thorlakson (who actually has the gall to state the script was "very good"), and others discussing how "amazing" Bass, Fatone and the movie ended up being. This is basically promotional fluff that includes some behind-the-scenes shots, videos and outtakes. Fans of Bass will love this—the rest of us can just skip it. A rather extensive section of storyboard comparisons is included, though since this is a romantic comedy they aren't that exciting. The outtakes feature a deleted gag reel with Al Green's "Let's Stay Together" dubbed over it. Ho-hum. The deleted and alternate scenes feature an optional commentary by the director and are presented in a rough widescreen form. I am surprised to report that a few of these scenes may have actually added something to the final cut of the film. The rest can be used for toilet paper.
The music video for the song "On The Line" stars *N'Sync, Mandy Moore, Vitamin C, some guy from BBMak, and other young pop stars that will be working at Arby's in ten years. The companion piece to this is a making-of featurette that poses the question to each singer "do you believe in love at first sight?" Of course, each one said yes, proving that none of them have experienced life's cruel and bitter heartbreaks in their short years on this earth. "Home Movies from the Set" is a weird short featuring Emmanuelle Chriqui and some friends going to a local *N'Sync concert where the trailer for the film is about to premiere. Whoopie.
Finally there are some interviews by Lance Bass, Joey Fatone, Emmanuelle Chriqui, Jerry Stiller, and Dave Foley (who seems almost pained to be talking to the interviewer about the film), a theatrical trailer for the film and some info on the members from *N'Sync.
Judge Patrick's final thought: why in the name of all that is good and righteous does everyone in the bonus materials keep comparing *N'Sync to The Beatles? Blasphemers! [Editor's Note: Yeah, but they just haven't gone through their drugs-and-Buddhism phase…]
Keep in mind that On The Line could have been worse: it could have starred all of the members from *N'Sync. Count your blessings. Miramax has done good job on the production of this disc, though if the film sucks, who cares?
Guilty of being…well, being an *N'Sync movie. Unless you're a 12 year old girl, this is one to skip.
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Scales of Justice
• "On The Line" Music Video
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