'This Is Us' Will Never Top 'NSYNC's 'On the Line'

There was a brief, brief moment during Sunday's MTV VMAs that spoke volumes, and it had nothing to do with Miley Cyrus. During 'NSYNC's way-too-short performance, the cameras quickly panned to One Direction, who seemed to be enjoying themselves. I know what MTV was trying to say: This is the new generation's 'NSYNC. Most people probably figured that out already. After all, One Direction has a frenzy of pre-teen and teenaged girls around them what seems like 24/7. Have you been into a Claire's recently? The jewelry destination for middle school girls carries everything that could have a British flag or One Direction's faces plastered on it. That was 'NSYNC in the '90s — minus the British flag. But you couldn't escape them.

There are some other similarities between the two boy bands, the newest addition to that list being One Direction's movie This Is Us. In case you forgot, or were a Backstreet Boys fan, there was a quasi-'NSYNC movie in 2001, On The Line. It was amazing. And even though I have yet to see This Is Us — which comes out Friday — I can say with confidence that there is no way it's better than On The Line. First of all, 'NSYNC trumps One Direction, always. Sure, the Brit boys may have had the good sense to form a band where all five members are actually attractive, but 'NSYNC succeeded despite their um, less fortunate members — and haircuts. Let's get started.

The Basic Premise

On The Line could not be more different from This Is Us. One Direction's movie is a documentary from Super Size Me's Morgan Spurlock (?!?) that follows the band, complete with performances, interviews, backstage footage, their parents and visits to their hometowns. It's all about letting the fans see what Zayn, Niall, Liam, Harry, and Louis are really like.

On The Line, however, is a fictional romantic comedy, starring only 2/5 of 'NSYNC, Lance Bass and Joey Fatone. As one of the heartthrobs of the group, Bass is obviously the lead, while Fatone is comic relief. Bass plays Kevin, a nice, shy guy who meets the girl of his dreams (Entourage's Emmanuelle Chriqui) on the train, but leaves before he can get her number. Ah, that's good conflict, folks. He spends the rest of the film trying to find her with the help of his playa friends. Both hilarity and heartfelt moments ensue. Unfortunately, Justin Timberlake does not appear until a brief post-credits scene, presumably because Model Behavior wore him out from acting for a while.

The Trailers

On The Line doesn't need fancy editing or a dramatic montage to lure you to the theater — all it takes is one deep-voiced narrater and samples of all the drama and jokes guaranteed to fill all 85 minutes. Joey Fatone has his hair in rollers! It's even considerate enough to show a chunk of the ending, so you don't have to be too worried about Kevin throughout the beginning of the movie.


Ian Gavan/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images

On The Line was released in October of 2001, just a few months after 'NSYNC's Celebrity album — the band was at the height of their popularity. We didn't know it at the time, but Celebrity would be their last album, and their last tour would end just six months later. It was perfect timing. When the band broke up, On The Line became an artifact from a different time, something to turn to when you miss the good old days.

We're going to have to wait and see where This Is Us falls in the span of One Direction's career. So far, they've gone from losing The X Factor to releasing two enormously successful albums, each with their own equally successful tours. There's also a third album and tour planned, with the song from This Is Us, "Best Song Ever," being its first single. That means at least one more year, and potentially more if they keep recording albums and no one pursues a solo career. If this is their peak, it was the perfect time for a movie. If they have a few more years left, they might want to consider a sequel.

Cultural Impact

Again, the winner is On The Line. Come on — it has its own episode on bad movie podcast How Did This Get Made?, and between the fashion and slang, it summarizes the embarrassing cultural obsession with boy bands in the early 2000s. Plus, I can't prove it, but I'm pretty sure the plot is the inspiration for Craigslist's Missed Connections. What could This Is Us inspire? Concert movies aren't nearly as memorable. When was the last time anyone talked about Justin Bieber: Never Say Never or Katy Perry: Part of Me? No one will remember This Is Us in a few years, but On The Line is forever. Just like the love between Kevin and his subway girl.

Images of On The Line: Miramax Films