Here on Earth

Directed by Mark Piznarski
Starring: Chris Klein, Leelee Sobieski, Josh Hartnett, Michael Rooker, Bruce Greenwood.
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for some sensuality and thematic elements.

Review by Matt Heffernan
March 26, 2000

In my review for Final Destination, I mentioned that the teen horror film was one of the most unbearable genres. Well, the teen melodrama is right up there. This week, a perfectly grating example has premiered.

In a rural Massachusetts town, Kelvin "Kelley" Morse (Chris Klein) attends an elite prep school, where he is about to graduate as valedictorian. In lieu of coming to graduation, his father sends him a Mercedes, but the school won't allow him to drive it. He sneaks out at night with his friends, anyway, and they go to a local diner. He has a charming little conversation with the waitress, Samantha (Leelee Sobieski), but his affection is not welcomed by Jasper (Josh Hartnett), her boyfriend. They get into a fight, then Kelley takes off in the Mercedes, with Jasper in hot pursuit. They manage to knock over the gas pumps at the diner, and are sentenced to help rebuild it.

Since he is expelled from school, Kelley has to stay at Jasper's house. Jasper's father (Michael Rooker) is also the contractor who was hired to rebuild the diner, so Kelley has to confront his boss everyday, as well. Of course, he still hasn't taken his eyes off Sam, even though her father (Bruce Greenwood) is the sheriff who arrested him. With all the world against them, can these two crazy kids make it?

I couldn't possibly express how little I care. Through the first two-thirds of the film, Here on Earth is a completely unexceptional, but passable romance. By the end, however, it starts charging downhill to the most maudlin and treacly conclusion possible. Its methods of tear-jerking are older than the hills of Hollywood, liable to effect emotion from only a dim-witted adolescent girl, or the intellectual equal. Even fans of The Cider House Rules should be able to see through its manipulations.

Despite the leads having chracter names that are gender-reversed (Kelley and Sam -- what were they thinking?), Klein and Sobieski give earnest performances, but they deserve much better material. And I don't care how many films I see him in, Rooker will always be "Henry" the serial killer. I keep waiting for him to tear somebody's stomach out, which can be quite distracting.

The director of this fine cinematic effort, Mark Piznarski, is making his second feature, following the 1997 indie Death Benefit. He has directed episodes from very good TV shows, including "NYPD Blue" and the best teen drama series in recent years, "My So-Called Life". My recommendation for him is to stick to the small screen; he can only manage to be tasteful when there are regular commercial breaks.

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Here on Earth (2000)

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Review © 2000 Matt Heffernan