On The Line
Green-lighted at the height of their potential popularity and released during the inevitable crash, movies about Vanilla Ice and The Spice Girls have served as the preteen pop icons' death rattle, each act victimized by the fickle nature of their own manufactured stardom. But the "woo" kids haven't stopped screaming for 'N Sync, so it stands to reason that the band's resiliency will carry these dreamboats past debacles like On The Line, a flimsy romantic comedy starring Lance Bass (the sorta weird-looking one) and Joey Fatone (the kinda goofy-looking one). In many ways a facsimile of the awful Drew Barrymore vehicle Never Been Kissed, the film takes similar advantage of downtown Chicago locales and prominently features a daily tabloid newspaper on a very slow news cycle. Like Barrymore, Bass plays a sweet-natured but romantically hapless young professional whose road to true love is paved with constant humiliation. His reputation for fouling up in key situations haunts him again when he meets dream woman Emmanuelle Chriqui on the el, and the two bond over their perfect teeth, their shared love of Al Green and the Cubs, and their ability to name the U.S. presidents in order. But when it comes time to get her name and number, Bass freezes up, and Chriqui goes back to her yuppie boyfriend of three years, the sort of fellow who yells, "Sell! Sell!" into his mobile phone every few minutes. Determined to break his cold streak and get her back, Bass pastes flyers all over the city, attracting the attention of a mirthless newspaper columnist (and former romantic rival) who turns his search into a human-interest story. Bass' passion gets him a promotion at the ad agency where he works, but his unscrupulous roommates—including flatulent party boy Fatone—use the flood of responses from women as a personal dating service. Comic relief comes in the form of Jerry Stiller and Dave Foley, two gifted performers who can't bring themselves to say "no" to any project; Stiller, complaining loudly about bowel movements, hemorrhoids, and ulcers, is a particular embarrassment. Innocuous, non-threatening, and unsurprising, On The Line doesn't stray from the 'N Sync formula, and will probably appeal to the group's less discriminating fans, though Fatone's ugly John Belushi routine may keep him out of focus on the next Tiger Beat cover. A piece of advice to those who can't resist: As soon as the jokey closing-credits sequence begins, run from the theater and don't look back, or risk turning into a pillar of salt.