I never thought I'd see the day (and still be qualified as a sane person) when two members from the boy band *N Sync would make a feature film and I would end up liking it. Despite a plot that strongly resembles the recent "Serendipity
," "On the Line" is a slight, cute charmer that, as far as pop-singers-turned-actors goes, is infinitely superior to the hideous "Glitter
" and the even more wretched "Spice World." It won't win any awards for believability or emotional depth, but it winningly fulfills its role as a bubblegum romantic comedy-fantasy that leaves you feeling happy.
Lance Bass, shock of all shocks, may have a future as a leading man. He is likable and magnetic as Kevin Gibbons, an advertising agency worker who meets the girl (Emmanuelle Chriqui) he knows he is meant to be with in life on the "L" train and freezes up when they part before he can get her name and phone number. In an attempt to find her, he sets out with the help of his three lifelong buddies, including struggling rock musician Rod (Joey Fatone), to cover the city in fliers looking for the mystery "L" train dream girl whom he talked to about Al Green and the U.S. Presidents (both could name them in chronological order).
The premise of "On the Line," wispily directed by Eric Bross (1998's "Restaurant"), is one that could probably never occur in the real world, but for 86 minutes it sure is nice to imagine that it's possible. Helping out the star-crossed love story are two performers who are both attractive and really do appear to be meant for one another. Lance Bass and the beautiful Emmanuelle Chriqui (2000's "Snow Day
"), as Abbey, light up the screen together to such a degree that it's too bad they don't share more screen time together.
Having Kevin and Abbey only meet at the beginning and reunite for the last scene is a missed opportunity, because it takes away the possible complexity that there could have been in the romance, had they spent the whole movie getting to know each other a little better. Still, changing this plot point would have drastically restructured the story as is, so it is a flaw that can easily be overlooked. That we immediately like Kevin and Abbey--two inherently good, passionate young people--is important, because it makes the possibility of them finding each other all the more involving and suspenseful.
Joey Fatone (also of *N Sync) lends amiable support as Rod, Kevin's best friend who loves nothing more than the music he performs at small clubs, yet gets little recognition for it. Kevin's other two friends, played by GQ (2001's "What's the Worst That Could Happen?
") and James Bulliard, are less developed and more annoying, and a subplot involving them taking advantage of Kevin's plight to get dates takes up too much time and is unnecessary. Tamala Jones (2000's "The Ladies Man
"), however, has a nicely written and vibrantly performed role as Kevin's hardened coworker who may just have a softer side.
With music that not only includes *N Sync, but also Britney Spears, BBMak, and music legend Al Green (who appears as himself), "On the Line" is a sweet, light confection that goes down with ease. At under 90 minutes, the movie occasionally still feels protracted with a lot of filler, but the love story at the center is one that had me rooting for the inevitably positive outcome. "On the Line" isn't a complete home run, but it does position Bass and Chriqui as two rising talents to watch out for.
©2001 by Dustin Putman