Here on Earth is a wannabe melodrama from 2000. When I first started watching it on Netflix, I was convinced that I had never seen it before. Sure, the name sounded familiar but I figured that was just because Here On Earth is such a generic name that it could have been used for any number of different films. In fact, even as I sit here typing this, there’s a part of me that keeps wanting to call the film either Back On Earth or Heaven On Earth.
But then as I watched the film, I realized to my horror that I had seen Here On Earth before. I watched it on cable back when I was in high school and, as much as I may not want to admit it, I think I actually cried at the end of it.
I didn’t cry this time, though. In fact, I laughed. Here on Earth is such a stereotypically melodramatic romance that it actually feels like a parody. It didn’t help that the film starred Chris Klein, who goes through almost the entire film with this sort of steely look in his eyes. No matter what emotion he’s supposed to be showing, Chris Klein’s impassive face remains frozen. In fact, it’s tempting to wonder if his character was supposed to be a robot sent from the future. Maybe Here On Earth was originally meant to be a Terminator film.
Here On Earth takes place in one of those little towns in Massachusetts where all of the poor townies resent the rich kids who go to a nearby boarding school. (Judging from the movies I’ve seen, it appears that every small town in Massachusetts is also home to an exclusive boarding school. A part of me suspects that this might not actually be the case. Fortunately, several TSL writers are from Massachusetts so, the next time I get a chance, I’ll just ask Gary, Leon, or Pantsu if any of them grew up near a boarding school.)
Chris Klein plays Kelly Morse. He’s a student at that boarding school. He’s rich. He’s snobby. But he’s also really, really smart. In fact, he was originally meant to be the school’s valedictorian until he got in some legal trouble. See, Kelly was having a street race with a townie named Jasper Arnold (Josh Hartnett). The street race led to the local gas station blowing up. I have to admit that I started laughing as soon as that gas station went up in flames because … well, let’s just say that I imagine it’s a lot more difficult to blow up a gas station than this film makes it look. Judging from this film, the gas station down the street from the office should be blowing up right now.
Anyway, that exploding gas station also causes a local restaurant to burn down. Both Jasper and Kelly are sentenced to help rebuild Mable’s Table. (That’s right, the name of the restaurant was Mable’s Table. It’s a good thing that Mable rhymes with table. If the place had been started by someone named Gretchen, I guess they’d call it Gretchen’s Kitchen.) The judge literally says, “They’ll be building a restaurant but building character too!”
Okay, your honor, thanks for spelling that shit out for us! Yay abuse of the justice system!
Anyway, Jasper has a girlfriend. Her name is Sam Cavanaugh (Leelee Sobieski) and her father (Bruce Greenwood) is the town sheriff. And guess what? HER FAMILY ALSO OWNED MABLE’S TABLE! This may seem like a lot of coincidences but these things happen when there’s only a dozen or so people living in a town.
Sam’s mother always tells her, “As long as we’re all alive, it’s nothing worse than a bad day.” Because they’re poor but honest and that’s how poor but honest people talk, don’t you know? Her father also tells her, every morning: “Good to be your father.” “Good to be your daughter,” Sam replies.
BECAUSE THEY’RE POOR!
In fact, they’re so poor but honest that they help Kelly come out of his snobby shell. Soon, he’s opening up to Sam. He’s telling her his secrets. He’s revealing his inner self and probably asking her, “What is this thing you humans call pleasure?” (Because he’s a robot from the future!) Suddenly, they’re in a love…
But guess what? Sam only has a few months to live…
Or I should say that she only has a few months to live here on Earth. She’s at peace with the idea because she’s a saint and she has a pretty a good idea that heaven is going to kick serious ass! Can she make Kelly into a better man before she dies?
Watch and find out! Or don’t. This is one of those extremely silly and misjudged melodramas that doesn’t really work. The adult roles are played by dependable character actors like Bruce Greenwood, Michael Rooker, and Annette O’Toole but Chris Klein and Josh Hartnett go through the entire film looking like they’d rather be anywhere but here on Earth. Leelee Sobieski gives the film’s best performance, bringing as much credibility as she can to an idealized role. (She’s beautiful, she’s sassy, she’s saintly, and she’s dying!) It’s a shame that she has since retired from acting but maybe she didn’t want to spend her entire career making movies like Here on Earth.
Anyway, Here on Earth made me laugh for all the wrong reasons. Maybe it will do the same for you!