The only way to write about “On the Line” is to have separate mini-reviews for the three categories of people who are most likely to be curious about it. I’ll begin with the group least able to wait (but also least likely to care what anyone else says about it): N’Sync fans. You will like the movie. Lance Bass (who also co-produced) and Joey Fatone appear throughout the movie and are cute. There are a lot of jokes and there is a sweet romance. There are some N’Sync songs on the soundtrack and some good songs by other performers and some cameo appearances by other stars, including Richie Sambora and Brandi. You also get to hear Joey perform some hard rock songs like “Pour Some Sugar on Me,” and Lance sings “Two Princes.” The other members of N’Sync appear very briefly during the end credits. Judging by the reaction of the mostly teenage girl audience in the screening I attended (and that was a group of intense fans who aced a pre-show N’Sync trivia contest), that was the highlight of the film.
Next, for parents of kids who want to see the movie and want to know how bad it is: I’ve seen worse, but then I am one of the few adults who has seen all three “Pokemon” movies AND all three “Mighty Ducks” movies. But I well understand the audience for this movie — back in the day, I went to see an awful musical called “When the Boys Meet the Girls” just because it had a performance by Herman’s Hermits.
If your kids want to see the movie, it is probably because they are fans of N’Sync, because, though it never mentions the group in its advertising, the movie stars two of its members. The story is a basic boy meets girl (on Chicago’s elevated train), loses girl because he is too shy to ask for her name and phone number, and then finds her again after several near misses. It is rated PG for some crude humor and brief bad language. On the scale of pop star vanity productions that reaches from the depths of “Glitter” and “Can’t Stop the Music” to the pinnacle of “Hard Day’s Night,” it is not very good but not destined for status as a legendary disaster. It’s about as harmless as an average sitcom episode.
Finally, in case there is anyone out there who is considering going to this movie for any reason other than its N’Sync connection: don’t bother. Go see “Serendipity” instead – it has a similar story with a better script and a much better cast. The script is really terrible, not just dumb but sloppy. It can’t even get the definition of “tweens” right, a pretty big lapse, considering that tweens are the primary demographic for the movie’s audience. Much of the movie takes place on Chicago’s famous “El” trains, and yet in the movie they spell it “L.” And Lance’s character either goes massively into debt with a last grand gesture to find the girl of his dreams or he embezzles the client’s ad campaign money to put his copy on their billboards. Apparently, this little detail was not important enough to clear up. Furthermore, the movie unforgiveably wastes the talents of Dave Foley and Jerry Stiller. We may forgive Stiller for complaining about his internal organs and bodily functions in “Zoolander” — that was a favor to his son, who wrote and directed it. But in this movie we get the same shtick for no reason whatsoever.
Parents should know that the movie has some vulgar humor and some strong language for a PG (there is some obvious overdubbing that indicates that the movie may have been cut down from a PG-13). Characters drink beer and wine. One actor does what could be considered an insensitive caricature of flamboyant gay male behavior. Guys ask each other how much “action” they got following a date. Despite some crude conversation, the behavior of the characters is not inappropriate and one male character comes on too strong is told by his date in no uncertain terms that his behavior is inappropriate, a good role model for the young girls in the audience.
Families who see the movie should talk about how it can be hard to take a risk. Parents may want to talk about some of their own experiences and how they learned from their mistakes.
Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy the best teen idol movie ever made, A Hard Day’s Night, starring the Beatles.