Here's a quote from the "Here On Earth" press kit: "The lives of three young people -- a rich student, a girl from the 'wrong side of the tracks' and her boyfriend -- unexpectedly intersect during one fateful summer..." It's enough to make one's eyes roll like slot machines.
So imagine my surprise when this teenage romantic tear-jerker managed to overcome its connect-the-dots script, its paltry romantic chemistry and its endless parade of empty musical montage sequences to become affecting enough to make a whole row of college girls at the preview screening cry. OK, maybe I got a little misty, myself. But just don't tell anybody, will you?
The palatably promising Leelee Sobieski ("Deep Impact") stars as Samantha, daughter of a small town diner owner whose love life has since childhood involved only one boy -- Jasper (Josh Hartnett, "The Faculty"), a hot-headed dairy farmer's son in a John Deere cap.
Now enter Kelley (Chris Klein, "Election"), a "richie" valedictorian from a near by prep school whose distant but controlling, corporate-minded father has just sent him a Mercedes convertible coupe to atone for skipping his upcoming graduation.
Out for a joy ride, Kelley his blue-blooded buddies run afoul of Jasper's and his pick-up truck pals. A drag race ensues and ends with both cars crashing into the diner, sparking a fire and burning it to the ground.
Charged with reckless driving, Kelly and Jasper are sentenced to help rebuild the restaurant, and while they're endlessly butting heads, Sam's heart gets to racing over handsome preppie, who looks pretty appetizing shirtless and covered in sweat from working construction right across the street from her house.
Blatantly mushy and clumsily manipulative, "Here On Earth" requires the audience to be quite forgiving of its foibles and its logical leaps of faith. Nearly every third scene is some golden-toned shot of Samantha and Kelley strolling through picturesque fields, forests and riversides. The embarrassing attempts at sophisticated flirting between Sobieski and Klein are terribly forced through most of the movie. Sam's frequent trips to the doctor for a track and field injury are so conspicuously played down that there's obviously something more going on (it's a tear-jerker, remember). And let's face it, the three main characters are nothing but clichés.
But aside from the initial flatness of the rich boy-poor girl romancing, these young actors are all good enough to transcend the unoriginal parts with which they've been stuck. Sam, Jasper and Kelley are surprisingly three-dimensional and sympathetic because Sobieski, Hartnett and Klein lend them depth that isn't found in the script.
I'm not saying strong acting absolves director Mark Piznarski (who helmed the equally artless TV miniseries "The '60s") of his predictable, pandering and prosaic filmmaking. All I'm saying is bring Kleenex, because if nothing else "Here On Earth" certainly knows how to push your buttons.
Run time: 96 mins
In Theaters: Friday 24th March 2000
Distributed by: Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment
Contactmusic.com: 2.5 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 17%
Fresh: 12 Rotten: 57
IMDB: 5.0 / 10
Director: Mark Piznarski
Starring: Leelee Sobieski as Samantha Cavanaugh, Chris Klein as Kelvin Morse, Josh Hartnett as Jasper Arnold, Michael Rooker as Malcolm Arnold, Annie Corley as Betsy Arnold, Bruce Greenwood as Earl Cavanaugh, Annette O'Toole as Jo Cavanaugh, Elaine Hendrix as Jennifer Cavanaugh
Also starring: Annette O'Toole
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