Dir: Eric Bross. US 2001. 85 minutes
A Serendipity for the junior high school crowd, On the Line stars two of today's biggest teeny-bopper heart-throbs, 'N Sync bandmates Lance Bass and Joey Fatone. As with the recent John Cusack-Kate Beckinsale romantic comedy, On The Line puts a slight spin on the classic "boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy gets girl" scenario in that, instead of trying to win back Ms. Right, the protagonist spends the entire film trying to find out who the nameless beauty is and how to locate her. Considering 'N Sync's rabid fan base (the band's second album sold 2.4 million copies its first week of release), the picture should do extremely well with the pre-pubescent crowd, especially girls. The only surprising thing is that Miramax didn't release the film during the summer to capitalize on the three-month school holiday.
Sweet-natured but shy Kevin (Bass in his feature debut), a junior-executive-in-the-making at a Chicago ad agency, is a firm believer in true love but he has a history of freezing when he gets around a girl he likes. One day he meets the girl of his dreams on the El (short for Elevated, Chicago's metro line). The spark is mutual but Kevin is too afraid to take the chance and ask for her name or number. After they part, he can't stop thinking about her.
With the encouragement of his more boisterous friends, including aspiring rock star Rod (Fatone) and goof ball Eric (comedian GQ), he sets out to find his mystery lady (Chriqui), putting fliers up all around Chicago asking: "Are you her'" The Chicago Daily Post picks up the story and women around Chicago flock to their phones, anxious to meet such a sensitive, romantic guy. It seems that every woman in the Windy City has seen the newspaper article' every woman except "her."
Critical response to this youth-oriented romance is sure to divide along age and gender lines. The target audience of girls from nine to 13, the core of 'N Sync's fan base, will totally buy into the film's fairy tale premise and plot and probably won't notice how bland a character Kevin is. With his clean cut looks and manners, he is the perfect non-threatening romantic figure. Adolescent boys will be less enthralled by the romantic bent of the story but will appreciate the male bonding rituals which go on among Kevin's immature circle of friends.
Whether Kevin is supposed to be quite as bland as he comes off is another matter. The truth is, Bass doesn't seem terribly confident in his feature acting debut, leading to a noticeably stiff performance. Faring much better is Fatone, who displays an easy charm and a natural comic sensibility, along with a bull in a china shop rambunctiousness. Bit parts, such as Dave Foley's Mr. Higgins (Kevin's boss) and Tracy Dawson's Goth Girl (one of the countless young women who phone Kevin after the newspaper article appears), play their parts much too broadly and prove to be nothing but an irritation. Real life singers Richie Sambora of Bon Jovi and Al Green make cameo appearances.
Pro co: Tapestry Films Production in association with A Happy Place
US dist: Miramax
Intl dist: Miramax International
Prods: Peter Abrams, Rich Hull, Robert L. Levy, Wendy Thorlakson
Scr: Eric Aronson & Paul Stanton
Cinematographer: Michael Bernard
Pro des: Andrew Jackness
Ed: Eric A. Sears
Music: Stewart Copeland
Main cast:: James Lance Bass, Joey Fatone and Emmanuelle Chriqui