Eric D. Snider

On the Line

All right, class, get out your textbooks and turn to chapter two: "How to Make a Bad Movie." The film we will use as our example is "On the Line."

First, you need a bad script. You can't go anywhere without a bad script. If you have a good script, there's always the chance the movie will turn out good. If it's a bad script, the odds are against it.

"On the Line" was written by first-time writers Eric Aronson and Paul Stanton. Now, when I say "first-time writers," I don't mean they have never written a movie before. I mean they have never written ANYTHING before. This is the first time they have ever picked up writing utensils and attempted to communicate through the written word. I have serious doubts they even communicated verbally prior to writing this script, so out of touch with reality and dreadfully bad is it.

One way to make sure the script is bad is to use a bad storyline. In this case, the plot is as follows: Two strangers meet, begin to fall in love, and then are separated. They spend the rest of the movie trying to reunite, which they eventually do. You have probably seen this plot before -- maybe as recently as two weeks ago, when "Serendipity" came out.

Bad story, bad script, what's next? Ah, yes: bad casting. Is there a flash-in-the-pan pop star whose current success you can milk by putting him in a movie that will appeal to the demographic that also buys his CDs? There is? Then hooray for you! "On the Line" uses Lance Bass, the fleshy-faced fellow in 'N Sync. He's darned nice, but he's a pitiful actor, and he should never be put in a position where he will be expected to emote. As the lead in our terrible movie, he'll be perfect.

He needs a wacky sidekick, though, so find someone already associated with him. Fellow 'N Sync-er Joey Fatone (no, not Joey Fat One) will do nicely. In this movie, he is gross and flatulent. I am sure this differs greatly from his real-life persona.

Emmanuelle Chriqui plays the girl destined to fall for Lance Bass. She's pretty.

Characters come and go randomly in this movie, including the alleged enemy, Brady (Dan Montgomery Jr.), who holds an old high school grudge against Lance Bass' character and tries to thwart his efforts to find his mystery girl, until he (Brady) just disappears from the movie without a trace. And let's be sure to also forget Tamala Jones as Lance Bass' uppity co-worker, whose only purpose in the film has to do with affirmative action.

Is there a talented comic actor you can humiliate, the way Rip Torn was abused in "Freddy Got Fingered," or how Larry Miller got a raw deal in the second "Nutty Professor" movie? "On the Line" misuses Jerry Stiller, and it is sad to watch. Dave Foley, also a funny guy, does an impression of Phil Hartman doing an impression of Charlton Heston. He plays Lance Bass' ad agency boss; Stiller plays the mailroom clerk. Both are embarrassing.

We'll need some bad directing, too. Here we have Eric Bross, directing his first major release and doing a lousy job at it. Granted, you couldn't do much with this vacant, simple-minded script, but Bross hardly even tries. There's no sense of pacing, timing, realism or intelligence. Just images slapped into the basic shape of a movie.

As an added measure to ensure ineptitude, you may want to shoot the film as if aiming for a PG-13 rating, then change your mind and seek a PG instead. The only way you'll be able to do it is to dub over all the profanity with non-profane words, which means the actors' lips won't match what they're saying. This will make the movie critics guffaw, and this will literally be the only thing worth laughing at in the whole movie, since the script is 100 percent laugh-free.

It is faux-wacky, thoroughly bland and predictable, and possessed of no emotion whatsoever. It features 8,000 'N Sync songs. That band's followers will most assuredly love it, and they are welcome to it. Class, you've just seen a movie work really hard just to earn an F.

Grade: F

Rated PG, some crude humor and a mild profanity or two

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