On the Line
Directed by Eric Bross. Starring Al Green, Jerry Stiller, Dave Foley, Tamal Jones, James Bulliard, Gq, Joey Fatone, Emmanuelle Chriqui, Lance Bass. (2001, PG, 86 min.)
REVIEWED By Kimberley Jones, Fri., Oct. 26, 2001
Apparently looking to extend his 15 minutes, 'N Sync crooner Lance Bass stars in his feature-film debut as Kevin, a Windy City ad exec who meets a girl (Chriqui) on the El train one day, flirts with her for five minutes, then fails to get her name or number. Why? 'Cause he's a wimp. But his acute insecurities aren't enough to make him weird, or edgy, or dysfunctional. That at least would be something. Regretting the one that got away, Kevin decides to right his wrong and find the girl, plastering the town with posters that plead “Are You Her?” It's a solid premise for some romantic comedy fluffery, but, like the flaccid Kevin, On the Line is all wimp. It's so determined to not offend that it offers the audience nothing to give a good goddamn about -- oops, I mean goshdurn. (In a bit of post-production tinkering, even the most innocuous curse words have been awkwardly dubbed over to a less inflammatory “dang” or “butt.”) There's some plotting here, but it's long-winded and ultimately pointless; instead the film must rest on the strength (or, in this case, weakness) of its performers. Kevin and his entourage of old high school pals (including one played by bandmate Fatone) have all the dimension and appeal of a Pudding Pop. The exception would be NYC comic and rapper GQ, as a scrappy, none-too-smart friend of Kevin's; when given the chance, he's funny and engaging, but too often he's pushed aside to make way for a mugging Fatone. Largely due to its colorless leads, the entire premise -- that of the undeniable attraction between Kevin and his El-train lady -- feels flatly uncompelling, maybe because it's hinged on how much they both dig Al Green (well, who doesn't?) and their mutual ability to rattle off every American president. A neat trick, but kismet it ain't. On the Line is so sissy it won't even take its own advice. It takes zero chances -- other than headlining the remarkably potent flatulence power of Joey Fatone, certainly a risk with the Teen Beat crowd -- and it's that unwillingness to break out of its pre-fab fixture that renders On the Line instantly forgettable.