I had a great time watching “On the Line.” I also had a great time watching Elton John and Eminem perform “Stan” as a duet at the MTV Video Music Awards. Furthermore, I had a blast when I saw Rosie O’Donnell dress up in tight, sexual garb for her role in “Exit to Eden.”
All these circumstances were fun for me because they all gave me a chance to laugh very hard at the screen in front of me. I could certainly detect the moments in “On the Line” that the target audience of 11-year-olds is supposed to laugh at — a guy getting hit in the crotch with a baseball, another guy farting — but I laughed at basically everything else. It is just as fulfilling to laugh at a movie as it is to laugh with it, and that is certainly the mindset required here to have an enjoyable movie-going experience.
The main character in “On the Line” is Kevin (‘NSync’s James Lance Bass — that’s right, Lance is his middle name; how cute is he now, ladies?), who has the chronic problem of not being able to approach girls he has crushes on. His three buddies who have no purpose in this film except to screw up Kevin’s life and then fix it again are Rod (Joey Fatone), Eric (Gregory Qaiyum) and Randy (James Bulliard). If you haven’t heard of those last two guys, it’s okay: they’re not in ‘NSync. Joey Fatone is, however, which makes it even funnier that his character here is an aspiring rock guitarist with painted black fingernails who plays songs by Twisted Sister and Guns n’ Roses in local bars.
Kevin’s problem strikes again one day on the Chicago L when he meets a stunningly attractive girl who shares all of his interests (there is a poignant scene where they simultaneously name all of the American presidents in order), yet instead of asking for her name or phone number, all he can say as she steps off the train is, “It was a pleasure — commuting with you.”
Such sparks flew in this initial encounter that Kevin decides he will not let this girl, Abbey (the irresistable cute Emmanuelle Chriqui Bross), get away from him, and thus he spends the rest of the movie in a frantic search to find “the L train girl,” posting signs with her description all over downtown Chicago. He even gets an interview with the “Chicago Post” to publicize further his desperation to find her again.
This plan brings in an unexpected flood of phone calls from every woman in Chicago wanting to meet such a romantic young man, but Kevin’s friends go behind his back and set up dates with these women for themselves, posing as three separate Kevins. Of course this leads to disaster, and of course that disaster is somehow mended to provide for a classic happy ending.
It should be noted that Lance Bass is actually not that bad an actor. You know those football players who do commercials for the NFL and the United Way? And those chief executive officers of important companies who present Jerry Lewis with checks for hundreds of thousands of dollars at the yearly telethon to support MDA research? He’s better than all those guys. Actually, he’s better than most of his fellow cast members in this film, who sadly don’t have an extremely successful boy band to point to as their real job when people think they suck at acting.
I can’t imagine that anyone working on the conceptual design of this movie ever had the goal of earning anything above a PG rating. And there are clearly PG insults thrown around in this movie. For instance, a member of Kevin’s band shouts at him when he is too nervous to dedicate a song to a certain girl in the crowd, “Come on man, don’t be a tulip.”
Wait, it gets more racy. “Brilliant deduction, Scooby,” quips a full-grown woman working as Kevin’s partner on Reebok’s creative design team. One more — you’re going to love this one — I’m not even going to tell you who says it: “I’m from Oregon, you flatulent Philistine.” Boo-yah!
But here’s what makes no sense: in at least four instances in “On the Line,” the actors’ mouths clearly pronounce naughty words while their edited-in voice-overs say the common euphemisms. “Dang it,” “butt” and “half-hearting” are what we hear while our lip-reading skills show us what we would see in “On the Line: The Director’s Cut.”
The most mind-boggling instance is when one of Kevin’s friends states, “We all messed Kevin over,” but he mouths the F-word. What’s going on here? This is crazy! Who ever thought it would be a good idea to put the mother of all curse words in an ‘NSync film? That’s like putting a parental advisory label on one of their records. It’s just not smart.
As much as this is a movie about love at first sight, missed chances, coincidences and lasting friendships, it is more a movie about Al Green. Yes, that Al Green, the 55-year-old black singer. In what at first seems like just one cute moment, Kevin is listening to Al Green on his headphones and singing along loudly on the L, and Abbey approaches him because she loves Al Green, too.
Then they both attend an Al Green concert in which Al Green appears with a band and dedicates a song to Kevin, and finally, as the credits roll, Al Green reappears to lead a dancing celebration in the streets of Chicago with the rest of the elated cast. Go to the official movie Web site and you’ll find a picture of Al Green’s smiling head in the bottom right hand corner. It is now sadly evident that Kevin and Abbey are such big Al Green fans because he is the most notable musician this movie could attract.
As great a faux pas as it is to discuss the specifics of a movie’s ending in its review, I feel that few people reading this will go see the movie anyway, and if you are indeed considering going to watch it, this last bit of information may in fact sway you into the theaters. If you stay in your seats until after the credits are done you will see some behind-the-scenes footage of two more ‘NSync members! Hooray! And one of them is Justin Timberlake doing his best impression of a stereotypical homosexual hairdresser with a lisp. Hooray!
And so here is my suggestion: Go see another movie, and if the times work out properly, sneak into “On the Line” to see the last fifteen minutes, which contain the Al Green dance sequence and Justin Timberlake acting like a tool.