Weekly Wire
Austin Chronicle Here on Earth

By Sarah Hepola

APRIL 3, 2000: 

D: Mark Piznarski; with Chris Klein, Leelee Sobieski, Josh Hartnett, Michael Rooker, Annie Corley. (PG-13, 96 min.)

She dies in the end. That might ruin the movie for you ­ except director Mark Piznarski and writer Michael Seitzman have already done that for me. The crux of this wretched gagfest is the love triangle between Kelley (Klein), a Princeton-bound male-child of privilege, working-class rebel Jasper (Hartnett), and the woman choosing among them. Sobieski plays Samantha, the object of their mutual affection, a pragmatic, hard-working young girl, who nonetheless reads Robert Frost poetry and describes her favorite spot as "a little bit of heaven, here on earth." Recklessly unsubtle moments like this clog the movie, along with clichés like drag races, teary bus station goodbyes, and lovers running through softly lit fields of wheat. The only twist Here on Earth offers on the genre is that it drives Samantha from the arms of the earnest, hardworking (and far cuter, by my estimation) underdog and into the arms of a snide, spoiled ingrate. But, alas, poor Kelley's lashing out is all for a good cause ­ his mother killed herself and his father is Mr. Emotionally Distant, and he couldn't even feel until he met Samantha, who proves she intuitively understands his complicated, burgeoning manhood by making him a sandwich when he's hungry. But their young romance comes crumbling down, however, when Sam is expediently diagnosed with a scary-sounding terminal illness somehow involving an old running injury (dreaded knee-cap disease?). As the pivotal Kelley, Klein stumbles when called upon to offer more than a well-scrubbed visage and bare pecs slathered in oil. You can just see him straining for emotional effect, giving tearful, sobbing speeches about his dead mother and why he's such an asshole, but Klein looks painfully out of place stripped of his clothes and the endearing innocence he had in American Pie and the far superior Election. Sobieski plays her emotional scenes fine, but she's an actress who just continues to annoy the hell out of me. Perhaps even more improbable than the film's ludicrous setup is the notion that frat-boy hotties like Hartnett and Klein would be slavering over Sobieski, with her Honors English pretentiousness, Renaissance Fair accent, and "cute-for-a-babysitter" looks. But hey, she can't be blamed for Piznarski and Seitzman's clunky, embarrassingly trite approximation of intimacy and loss. It just seems that somewhere along the road to becoming teens idols, these actors got confused between being the bomb ­ and getting it.

0 Stars

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