Here on Earth (DVD, 2006, Widescreen; Sensormatic) Reviews

Here on Earth (DVD, 2006, Widescreen; Sensormatic)

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Falling in Love, According to the Hollywood Rules

Oct 9, 2000
Review by  
Rated a Very Helpful Review

Pros:A first-rate cast and some fresh plot twists make this barely watchable

Cons:Sappy dialogue and wooden directing make you want to avert your eyes

Here on Earth follows the rules of what I like to call the Dewy Youth Drama:

1. Cast flawlessly beautiful people. Those with zits, thick eyeglasses or an extra 20 pounds needn’t bother showing up for auditions.
2. Remember this above all else: Love at first sight. Soft-focus close-ups, violins and uncrowded sets also help.
3. Throw in rival boyfriends, uncooperative parents and a life-threatening disease for extra credit. This is also know as the "road to eternal love is paved with Montagues and Capulets" corollary.
4. Use music videos as exposition. Forget dialogue. The latest hit by the Dixie Chicks, along with slow-motion romps between the stars (eating pizza, washing cars, piggyback rides along the beach), reveals more than all that boring talk stuff.

I’ll admit, I’m a sucker for Dewy Youth Dramas, especially when they’re done well. Some of my favorites include A Little Romance, A Place in the Sun, Some Kind of Wonderful and Rebel Without a Cause—most of which didn’t include Rule #4 because music videos hadn’t yet been invented by marketing executives.

Here on Earth isn’t good enough to take its place with those great films. Then again, it’s not as bad as some of Hollywood’s recent Dawson’s Creek-style offerings—movies like the deplorably bad Simply Irresistible.

Despite the identical titles, Here on Earth is not adapted from Alice Hoffman’s novel, a recent Oprah Book Club pick. Still, the no-holds-barred soap opera elements are just as predominant. If your tears are easily jerked, you’ll want to have a full box of Kleenex handy.

The rest of the population will want to have the same box of tissues to stem the flood of tears from the laughably awful dialogue. Screenwriter Michael Seitzman grabs the cliché bull by the horns and milks it to the melodramatic max. No sap is left untapped.

Kelley (Chris Klein) is about to graduate as valedictorian at an exclusive boys' prep school located near a small New England town which comes to us direct from a Norman Rockwell painting. Our first impression of the guy is that of spoiled snob. But he’s really just a sensitive townie waiting to happen.

One night, Kelley and his buddies take a joyride into town, where they get into a rumble with one of the locals, Jasper (Josh Hartnett), and his testosterone-laden friends. Then, in the first of many eye-rolling moments, an out-of-control car race ends with a crash and a local diner going up in flames. Kelley and Jasper are arrested and sentenced to probation with one condition—they have to help rebuild the diner, which is owned by the family of Jasper's girlfriend, Samantha (Leelee Sobieski).

Oh yeah, I forgot to mention, Kelley’s already had a Rule #2 moment with Samantha when he flirted with her in the diner before it went ka-blooey. Kelley’s hidden charms don’t really register with Samantha until one day she observes him in the forest reciting Robert Frost (I was impressed that a teenager could quote Frost, let alone even know who he was). Then later, when she sees him walking around the construction site without his shirt…well, forget Jasper (besides, Kelley has a much better haircut). The rest of the movie predictably builds all the angles of the love triangle.

What’s not so predictable (and, consequently, what makes Here on Earth bearable) is the way we’re handed some surprises—mainly in character development (these are always the best kind of surprises). Pieces of the past rise to the surface like submerged driftwood as Samantha, Kelley and Jasper vie for each other’s affection and deal with their emotional histories. There are a lot of stories in small towns—you can find a year’s supply of soap opera plots just at the church potluck—and this movie approaches each one of them gently.

I also liked the subdued, natural performances from all the actors. All three of the main characters were appealing (and not just in the Rule #1 sort of way, either). I felt like I could drive through any small town in America and find kids like this hanging out at the corner drugstore or cruising main street (or, at least I could if I’d taken my drive 15 years ago). Klein, especially, sheds the cute-dimwit persona of Election and American Pie and goes for a character who’s like a Montgomery Clift or James Dean from the right side of the tracks.

Unfortunately, the script sometimes calls for those smart characters to do clumsy, predictable things like standing out in the rain while the latest pop song swells on the soundtrack. And then they have to turn around and deliver lines like this with a straight face: "Maybe we go through life collecting people and places that we love and they become our heaven."

I’m reaching for the Kleenex and trying to control the laughter.

Recommend this product? No

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