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Movie Review

A rich prep school senior challenges a local farm boy for the affections of a pretty girl. Jasper is a decent, earthy, hardworking guy who has been by Sam’s side for years. In contrast, Kelley is a spoiled, disrespectful snob who looks down his nose at anything with a blue collar. When a reckless car chase between the young men ends in the fiery destruction of a diner, Jasper and Kelley are sentenced to help rebuild the eatery. The rest of the film chronicles the contrived emotional ups and downs of three moody kids, all driven by Sam’s inexplicable attraction to Kelley. Sam sows some wild oats before learning that she has terminal cancer.

Positive Elements: Sam shares a warm, sacrificial relationship with her parents and siblings. So does Jasper, whose mother and father act decisively, yet lovingly when he gets into trouble with the law. While it’s not consistent with much of her subsequent behavior, Sam threatens to dump a milkshake into Kelley’s lap if he continues to ogle her. Assessing the charred remains of the family diner, Sam reminds her mother that she always taught her, "As long as we’re all alive, it’s nothing more than a bad day." To make up for a thoughtless act, Kelley buys a hamster for Sam’s little sister. A wise judge sees to it that the boys face character-building consequences for their irresponsible driving, refusing to let wealth buy Kelley out of his predicament.

Spiritual Content: Families attend a church service, during which the pastor suggests that tragedy may be part of God’s master plan. Pondering eternity, Sam describes heaven as a depository of good memories accumulated during life on earth. Sam gets a church funeral.

Sexual Content: Boys antagonize each other with sexual comments. Preppies boast that owning a hot sportscar is essentially a ticket to sex. Teens plan an outing around coed skinny-dipping. Lying in the grass, Kelley caresses his way up Sam’s body, playfully assigns names to each breast and kisses her navel. Sam follows Kelley to his home in Boston for an unchaperoned weekend that involves sex (the next morning, a giddy Sam twirls about the kitchen wearing only Kelley’s shirt).

Violent Content: Irresponsible driving leads to a violent explosion. Guys get into several fistfights.

Crude or Profane Language: About a dozen profanities, including an offensive use of Christ’s name. A local boy flips his middle finger at Kelley.

Drug and Alcohol Content: Kelley gets drunk after downing several beers.

Other Negative Elements: Kelley is generally rude, ungrateful, disrespectful of authority and self-centered (though he softens some by the end). Sam ogles the shirtless Kelley and engages him in innuendo-laced banter. She is also a romanticized personification of folly, ruled by her feelings without moral conscience (on her death bed, she tells her father, "Some people live their whole lives and never fall in love. I lived my life and I fell in love"). Kelley explains how, as a boy, he found his mother in the bathtub after she had slashed her wrists. Kelley’s dad is such an image-obsessed tycoon that he is only concerned with his son’s behavior inasmuch as it reflects on him personally.

Summary: Forget "straight-to-video," this hollow melodrama comes off more like a big-screen version of a TV movie-of-the-week green-lighted just to give a struggling network something to schedule opposite Monday Night Football. Here on Earth is simultaneously dull and maddening. First of all, any viewer with a sense of justice is immediately aliented when Sam ends a meaningful, friendship-based romance with a handsome, well-bred guy who really loves her just to have a fling with a pompous jerk. We keep waiting for her to wise up. No such luck.

Second, Here on Earth is a painfully desperate heart-tugger loaded with insufferable symbolism, empty emoting, saccharine sentimentality and just-in-time personal revelations. By the time Kelley discloses the details of his mother’s suicide (which leads the young couple straight into bed), the film borders on self-parody. That bombshell is a dud. Then it is learned that Sam has terminal cancer, but the audience has already been manipulated by nonstop contrivances for so long that it’s hard to generate any emotion. It’s just another plot device. Beyond inappropriate language and sex outside of marriage, Here on Earth commits another misstep which will undoubtedly lead to a short theatrical run: It insults viewers’ intelligence.


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