On The Line

Review Haiku

This movie was bad

But I can appreciate

A decent effort

Rating: 1.5/5

I’m one-third of the way done with David’s RomCom Challenge 2015! Coincidentally, I seem to have lost one-third of my joy for life. Send help.

Making the grade, kind of

I’m not sure how you guys were graded in elementary school. I didn’t get A’s and B’s. My grades were O (outstanding), S (satisfactory), N (needs improvement), and U (unsatisfactory). All of these grades were dispersed among two broad categories: Effort and Achievement.

On The Line garners a solid UUUU in the achievement section, but earned a surprising S in effort. To be sure, it’s a truly terrible movie, but it had something of a heart – and it at least attempted to put a story together instead of simply settling on the fact that the presence of Lance Bass and Joey Fatone was the only reason for its existence.

The story centers around Kevin (Bass), who meets a nameless girl (Emmanuelle Chriqui) on the El (which, by the way, is the inspiration for the awful title of this movie). The two engage each other in conversation along their commute and connect impossibly quickly; Kevin, for plot convenience, decides to forget how humans operate and fails to get the girl’s name or number. This was when flip phones were cool. How could he forget to do that?

In an inauspicious act of intransigence, Kevin decides to blanket Chicago in a sea of handcrafted posters begging the “girl on the train” to come back for him. It’s a stupid, cliched plot and frankly, Lance Bass is an awful actor. But it wasn’t the cash grabbing shit show I expected.

What I expected

I expected Bass and Fatone to be members of a boy band. I expected dance numbers and terrible lines of dialogue. I expected cheesy late 90’s pop ballads and one-dimensional characters struggling to find their place in a misguided and sophomoric plot.

What I got

I certainly didn’t expect the movie to open with two members of N’Sync doing a terrible cover of “Two Princes” by the Spin Doctors. 

Once I got past that, I was treated to a gooshy, terribly plotted romance with numerous N’Sync songs tossed in randomly, no doubt to satisfy some Hollywood bigwig’s quota. Surprisingly, there were no dance numbers. Unsurprisingly, the characters were none-dimensional.

What stunned me, though, was the script’s inexplicable tendency to drop in amazing lines of dialogue every few minutes. Some of the following lines may sound foolish out of context, but they made me laugh while I was watching:

Hey Family Circus is a great comic! It’s like one square and you’re done with it, y’know?”

“I thought we’d have a cosmic connection…I don’t have to take this. I’m from Oregon!”

“Damn, that’s the third time I’ve hit that guy.” (This was spoken by none other than Sammy Sosa after hitting Kevin in the nuts with a foul ball.)

Some of the one-liners by themselves made this movie less than putrid.

Target audiences

This photo has nothing to do with this section. I just felt the need to put it in here somewhere.

If you know me, you’ve heard countless times about my stunted childhood as it pertains to pop culture. For the uninitiated: my parents allowed me to listen to a single radio station, Mix 107.3, the best hits of the 80s, 90s, and today, a station that played Dave Matthews and Vanessa Carlton and Train, and literally shat itself when Five For Fighting came out with new music. In addition to that, I was allowed 30 minutes of television a night, which I mostly spent not watching because I didn’t get cable until I was 16. So I can be forgiven for not knowing exactly how big N’Sync was in certain circles back in the day.

My first guess is that N’Sync was popular among teens and young people. If that’s so, I have a single question:

Who was the target audience of this movie?

There were jokes and themes that no child would understand, plots and sublots that no teen would find remotely interesting. It was a borderline PG-13 movie with actors who looked like they would have a better time relating to 30-year-old stoners than 13-year-old tween girls. There is so much adulthood in the movie and it’s slightly off-putting. A middle school kid doesn’t know about the 1984 Cubs, who are constantly brought up, and they certainly don’t care about advertising principles, which are a major theme in Kevin’s life.

Yet there men-children are prancing around Chicago with N’Sync and Britney Spears playing in the background. I was utterly confused.

Final thoughts

Justin Timberlake: Made an appearance in the after-credits scene. It was a “behind-the-scenes” look at the making of the film. It was ridiculous and made no sense. But I have to admit, I think Justin Timberlake is talented and funny and it was kind of endearing to see that he knew to mostly stay away from this project. Unfortunately, his judgment wasn’t always so spot-on.

Money: This movie cost $16 million to make. It grossed $4.3 million. Thank you sweet Jesus.

N’SYNC SONG COUNT 2015: I counted six N’Sync songs that played during the course of the film. Zero of them served the plot in any way. It was simply background music. It was dumb as shit.

Sappiness rating: 9/10. This movie ratcheted up the sap. Not exactly tree-in-the-middle-of-Vermont sap, but pretty darn close. All you need to know is that the final line of dialogue is…

Kevin: “Two questions… what is your name, and can I please have your phone number?”

Abby: “Abby… and I thought you’d never ask.”

…and it is uttered in front of a fawning cavalcade of eager reporters who want to know whether that pitiful guy who wrote the flyers actually got back together with the girl from the train. IT’S SO DUMB. But I can’t deny that it had heart.

Conclusion

Terrible movie. Terrible, terrible movie. But not terrible because it had members of N’Sync in it. It was terrible because it was just a bad movie. And again, this surprised me. In capable hands, this might have been somewhat bearable.

UP NEXT: I take a walk into the past, a forgotten time when Adam Sandler put more than none effort into his movies. I’ve heard good things about 50 First Dates, so maybe a positive review is in the offing.

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