"On the Line" is sophisticated romantic comedy for people who think "Corky Romano" is trenchant political satire. For those who have no real problem with that ... well, I guess I don't either. The movie is a Cheez Doodle--airy, empty, messy and, in the short term, perfectly harmless. It just doesn't register after quick consumption. It probably shouldn't.
At the risk of confusing people, one can even say that this family-friendly trifle has at least one thing in common with the explicitly erotic "Intimacy" now playing at art houses. It deals with the fear of connecting deeply with anyone, a phobia inexplicably suffered by a character played by one of the guys in 'N Sync.
Lance Bass is Kevin, a low-level Chicago ad man who's so tongue-tied around a pretty girl that he can't even get the name and phone number of a woman (Emmanuelle Chriqui) he meets on the train and with whom he has everything in common except efficient synapses. He blankets the city with leaflets seeking her out, a grand maneuver that makes him, for a while, the city's love god. His buddies (GQ, James Bulliard and fellow 'N Sync-er Joey Fatone), who aren't much better in the thinking department, decide on their own to use their friend's quixotic efforts to score their own dates, which soon turns Kevin's marketing effort into the New Coke of romantic pursuits.
Cornball premise and hokey humor aside, neither Bass nor Fatone embarrasses himself in his feature debut; both exhibit sustained flashes of goofy charm.
The closing credit sequence, sandwiched within a welcome finale by the Rev. Al Green, has a couple of other 'N Sync dudes, Justin Timberlake and Chris Kirkpatrick, helping out with some low, broad joshing.
It's not a whole lot funnier than what preceded it, but it's just distracting enough to make one believe that if this were 60 years ago, the World's Most Excellent Boy Band would be well suited for some raucous short subjects. Anyone for "'N Sync Meets the Mummy" or "Goofin' and Woofin' Down Broadway"? Anyone?
MPAA rating: PG, for language and some crude humor.
'On the Line'
Lance Bass: Kevin
Joey Fatone: Rod
Emmanuelle Chriqui: Abbey
Tamala Jones: Jackie
Dave Foley: Higgins
Jerry Stiller: Nathan
Rev. Al Green: Himself
Miramax Films presents a Tapestry Films production, in association with a Happy Place, released by Miramax Films. Director Eric Bross. Producers Wendy Thorlakson, Rich Hull, Peter Abrams, Robert L. Levy. Screenplay by Eric Aronson, Paul Stanton. Cinematographer Michael Bernard. Editor Eric Sears. Costume designer Margaret Mohr. Music Stewart Copeland. Production designer Andrew Jackness. Art director Brandt Gordon. Set decorator Gordon Sim. Running time: 1 hour, 26 minutes.
In limited release.