Here on Earth

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The first thing you hear in “Here on Earth” tells you exactly what the movie is going to be like. It’s the over-played radio love song “Black Balloon,” by Goo Goo Dolls, the kind that makes older teen-age girls swoon and allows their boyfriends to put the moves on them.

That, in a nutshell, is this movie. It’s quiet and almost restrained in its romanticism, presenting many attractive young people falling in love with each other in idyllic surroundings, tugging at your heartstrings and pushing all the right buttons to make you weep with it — if — and ONLY IF — you’re a teen-age girl, or the guy who has to take her to see it.

If you’re anyone else, you’ll see that Michael Seitzman’s screenplay is stultifyingly bad, wandering all over the place between generic, “wrong-side-of-the-tracks” love triangles, lame romance, and emotional manipulation (yes, cancer is involved, as learned on Day #1 of Screenwriting 101).

You’ll be treated to such dialogue as “I don’t wanna get between you and another guy. That’s just not cool.” And: “This thing with him is just gonna turn out to be a thing.” (Yes, that’s ACTUAL dialogue from the movie.) But like I said, the kids won’t notice it. I’d like to think they would see this film for the sham it is, now that they’re watching smart TV shows like “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” “X-Files” and “Dawson’s Creek.” But I suspect that if you put enough pretty faces and bodies on the big screen, the teens will revert back to hormonal mode, where their emotions override their reasoning and they come away thinking the movie was actually good (like they did with “Titanic”).

The plot, if you really want to know, is that Kelley (the thick-necked Chris Klein, who has yet to make a movie in which he does not play a teen-ager who has sex) is a rich snob at Rallston Academy in scenic Massachusetts. One night, he and his buddies go cruising in the nearby town of Putnam, where the simple folks don’t care much for the snobs at the boarding school. He flirts with diner waitress Samantha (Leelee Sobieski), which angers her cardboard boyfriend Jasper (Josh Hartnett). The two wind up in a drag race through town, culminating in the fiery destruction of the beloved Mabel’s Table diner.

The judge doesn’t just sentence Kelley and Jasper to probation and force them to help rebuild the cafe; that would be believable. No, in true sitcom fashion, she also fixes it so that Kelley has to live in the spare room above Jasper’s family’s garage! Wackiness can only ensue!

Except it doesn’t. The two, both of whom are hot-headed morons, see each other enough at the construction site to get into fistfights (I stopped counting after three); they don’t need to live together to facilitate that. Samantha falls for Kelley, resulting in a weak love triangle — weak because she has zero chemistry with either guy (Klein is so one-note in his performance, he barely has chemistry with himself), but also weak because she chooses Kelley and dumps Jasper so quickly and effectively as to render the film completely free of all emotional tension.

Sobieski is pretty, but she barely ever speaks above a whisper, let alone actually emote anything. What does she see in Kelley? What does he see in her? We don’t know. We’re supposed to just coo at how ROMANTIC it is that they just LOVE each other, without questioning why. Sorry, but it’s not going to work on anyone over the age of 20 who has ever seen a TRULY romantic film. This one, with its bland acting and terrible screenplay — we don’t even hear Kelley’s NAME until half-way through the movie; it’s even later that we learn the name of the town it all takes place in — this one is just tedious and lame, more ridiculous than sublime. I guess the kids will like it, but darn it, they shouldn’t.

D+ (; PG-13, scattered mild profanities, suggestive dialogue, implied sex, fistfight violence.)

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