In late October 2001, the U.S.A. was still hurting.  It was a time of uncertainty where we knew we were living in a new world, just not what that meant, exactly.  Some claim it was “The Rising” that allowed the country to finally a collective breath, but that wasn’t released until mid-2002.  But actually, it was a little movie called On the Line that finally got the U.S.A. back on track.

Surely you remember the romantic comedy.  An ad man has a great conversation with a girl (the lovely Emmanuelle Chriqui) on the El (the Chicago metro, for the uninitiated).  He wishes to pursue a relationship with said girl.  Only trouble is, he doesn’t have her phone number.  Or name.  So, being a good ad man, he puts together an ad campaign (posters, billboards) across the city, trying to find her.  Women across the city, naturally, find that incredibly romantic and besiege the guy with phone calls claiming to be the girl, so his friends kindly step in and handle going out with all the girls.

Oh, right, it might jog your memory to learn the film is basically an *NSYNC vehicle, with Lance Bass in the lead, and Joey Fatone playing a good friend.  Improbably, Dave Foley and Jerry Stiller also show up, and there are a whole slew of cameos.

But actually, On the Line isn’t half bad for a romcom.  The plot may not be particularly fresh or have surprising twists, but it keeps a pretty good pace.  Bass is fairly likable as the standard plays by the rules, deserves a break leading man. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Fatone works as the somewhat annoying and abrasive best friend who wants to be a musician.  And I’m a big fan of Chriqui, here playing a slightly more winsome version of her character in 100 Girls.  I think she’s just starting to have the career she deserves.  The more tertiary characters are perhaps a bit underutilized, particularly Dave Foley, but Jerry Stiller and Tamala Jones probably could have been given more to work with, as well.

And, oh, the cameos.  Bass and Chriqui first bond over Al Green, so he shows up to sing, which is awesome.  Richie Sambora plays Mick Silver, a famous rock star, not just hilarious because it is Richie Sambora showing up in an *NSYNC movie.  There’s a brief baseball scene with Chip Caray, Sammy Sosa, Damon Buford, and Eric Young, among others.  Baseball fans, like myself, will surely be delighted at that bunch.  And in the credits, Justin Timberlake (and the other *NSYNC guy) shows up as a flamboyant make-up artist.  Which is exactly as fantastic as it sounds.

And the music, naturally, is not to be missed.  Well, at least if Joey Fatone singing hair band music is something that intrigues you.  Plus there’s some*NSYNC pop sprinkled in, of course.  Oh, and the film was scored by Stewart Copeland.

The key phrase for On The Line is “managing expectations,” I think.  It delivers pretty much exactly what it promises, especially if you watch the trailer.  It is a standard romantic comedy with streaks of ridiculousness expected from an *NSYNC vehicle.  If you can have fun with that, you’ll enjoy the film, otherwise stay away.  Also, (and please keep in mind I’m in no way suggesting any sort of comparison between the two films) when I saw Slumdog Millionaire, there were two scenes that, to me, were fairly reminiscent of this movie.  For whatever that’s worth.

Trailer after the jump, and it appears you can watch the whole movie on YouTube, if you are so inclined.

Three Stars (3.3 IMDB, 32 Metacritic, 37 MRQE, 18% RT, all of which implies I may be in the minority on this one)