In the Dark: On the Line
Eric D. Snider
All right, class, get out your textbooks and turn to chapter two: "How to Make a Bad Movie." The film we will use as our example is "On the Line."
First, you need a bad script. You can't go anywhere without a bad script. If you have a good script, there's always the chance the movie will turn out good. If it's a bad script, the odds are against it.
"On the Line" was written by first-time writers Eric Aronson and Paul Stanton. Now, when I say "first-time writers," I don't mean they have never written a movie before. I mean they have never written anything before. This is the first time they have ever picked up writing utensils and attempted to communicate through the written word. I have serious doubts they even communicated verbally prior to writing this script. It was just a series of grunts and gestures and then, "Us write movie now."
One way to make sure the script is bad is to have a bad storyline. In this case, the plot is as follows: Two strangers meet, begin to fall in love, and then are separated. They spend the rest of the movie trying to reunite, which they eventually do. You have probably seen this plot before — maybe as recently as a month ago, when "Serendipity" came out.
Bad story, bad script, what's next? Ah, yes: bad casting. Is there a flash-in-the-pan pop star whose current success you can milk by putting him in a movie that will appeal to the demographic that also buys his CDs? There is? Then hooray for you! "On the Line" uses Lance Bass, the fleshy-faced fellow in 'N Sync (known in some quarters as the Backstreet Boys). He's darned nice, but he's a pitiful actor, and he should never be put in a position where he will be expected to emote. (This includes situations in real life, too.) As the lead in our terrible movie, he'll be perfect.
He needs a wacky sidekick, though, so find someone already associated with him. Fellow 'N Sync-er Joey Fatone (no, not Joey Fat One) will do nicely. In this movie, he is gross and flatulent. I am sure this differs greatly from his real-life persona.
For the woman, choose someone with whom the leading man has no chemistry.
Emmanuelle Chriqui is the right choice here, mainly because she has no chemistry with anyone, including herself. She would not ignite sparks if she were doused with gasoline and thrown into a kiln.
It is also good, if we are seeking mediocrity, to have characters come and go randomly. Introduce a villain — here, a newspaper reporter who has an old high school grudge against Lance Bass' character — and then have him disappear suddenly. Give Lance Bass an arch-enemy at work (an ethnic figure would be good here, perhaps played by Tamala Jones, unless Jada Pinkett is available), and then don't give her anything to do.
Is there a talented comic actor you can humiliate, the way Rip Torn was abused in "Freddy Got Fingered," or how Larry Miller was molested by a giant hamster in the second "Nutty Professor" movie? "On the Line" misuses Jerry Stiller and Dave Foley, who seems to be doing an impression of Phil Hartman doing an impression of Charlton Heston.
We'll need some bad directing, too. Here we have Eric Bross, directing his first major release despite being clearly unqualified even to direct traffic. Granted, you couldn't do much with this vacant, simple-minded script, but Bross hardly even tries. There's no sense of pacing, timing, realism or intelligence. Just images slapped into the basic shape of a movie.
As an added measure to ensure ineptitude, you may want to shoot the film
as if aiming for a PG-13 rating, then change your mind and seek a PG instead. The only way you'll be able to do it is to dub over all the profanity with non-profane words, which means the actors' lips won't match what they're saying. This will make the movie critics guffaw, and it will literally be the only thing worth laughing at for the entire ninety minutes, unless someone in the theater starts doing stand-up.
Since we've got some 'N Sync guys, we might as well put 8,000 'N Sync songs
on the soundtrack, or perhaps one 'N Sync song 8,000 times. Either way, it will appeal to 'N Sync fans, and only 'N Sync fans, and they're welcome to it. Class, you've just seen a movie go out of its way to fail.