A frustratingly not-terrible action thriller.
When we see the sweet advertising art for "Here on Earth," we suspect this may be another movie about angels walking among us, and it is--but these are human angels, not heavenly ones. It is about characters so generous, understanding, forgiving and just doggone nice that they could have been created by Norman Rockwell, just as their town seems to have been.
The movie begins, however, on a sour note, as a snotty prep school boy named Kelley (Chris Klein) gets a new Mercedes convertible from his rich dad, and takes some friends slumming at the diner in the nearby small town. He gets smart with Samantha the waitress (Leelee Sobieski), and has words with her boyfriend Jasper (Josh Hartnett). That leads to a drag race during which Kelley and Jasper crash their cars into a gas pump and burn down the gas station and the diner, which are owned by Samantha's parents.
Kelley has come across up until this point as an arrogant brat. Sure, he's the class valedictorian, but he doesn't care about stuff like that. All he cares about is expanding the family fortune. So maybe it will teach him a lesson when the judge orders Kelley and Jasper to help rebuild the diner during the summer ahead. And maybe Samantha is right to see something good hidden beneath his cynical defiance. Consider the scene where Kelley sneaks through the woods to eavesdrop on the substitute valedictorian's speech (he's been banned from graduation), and she tiptoes behind him and watches as he gives his own speech to the trees and the birds. It's a sweet scene. Unlikely in its logistics, but sweet.
Kelley isn't easy to like ("My probation doesn't say anything about sitting around and spitting out watermelon seeds with you people"). But as the summer meanders along, the boys get tans and develop muscles, and Samantha and Kelley fall in love, while good-hearted Jasper looks on helplessly. Read no further if you don't want to know . . . that Samantha, alas, has received bad news from her doctor. The cancer has spread from her knee to her liver, nothing can be done, and besides, "So I lived another year or two. It's not worth it." Not worth it? When you're young and smart and in love? I would personally endure a good deal of pain just to live long enough to read tomorrow's newspaper. But Samantha fades away, another victim of Ali MacGraw's Disease (first identified many years ago in "Love Story"), which makes you more beautiful the sicker you get.