review by Gregory Avery, 15 February 2002

In her very first scene in "Crossroads", the pop star Britney Spears is seen wearing a pair of white briefs, a short knit top, and cowboy hat, bouncing around in her bedroom while singing to Madonna's "Open Your Heart". The effect is the same as the getup she wears in the music video for the song ("I'm Not a Girl, Not Yet a Woman") that she recorded for this film, which is to draw your eye directly to her bared midriff and navel. A few scenes later, in the movie, she turns up wearing a pink lace brassiere and matching panties. Is this how she figures she'll start getting considered for roles in "A"-list motion picture projects? What she's doing is more like flesh-peddling than acting.

I don't know if Britney Spears can act -- she doesn't have the granite-walled reserve that Madonna showed in her most recent motion picture appearance -- but it turns out that there's not much a movie, here, to begin with, and she doesn't have a whole lot to do. All the big dramatic scenes have either been given to the other performers (who handle then capably), or they take place off-camera. When Spears' character has a reunion with the mother whom she hasn't seen for 15 years, just as things start to get going, the film suddenly cuts to the next scene: Spears ends up telling us what happened between the two. ("She didn't want me! I was a mistake!") The result is that she's mostly called upon in the film to be pretty and warm. And she gets to sing a little. The first time, it's when a song comes on a car radio, and when she starts singing along with it, Spears' co-star Anson Mount, who's driving, grimaces in a decidedly noticeable manner: "Ewwwwww!" (Later, he explains that his reaction is simply because he has a thing about "chick things", although, considering he's driving three girls cross-country from Georgia to Southern California, it makes you wonder what he's doing there in the first place.) Later, in New Orleans, he watches while Spears does a karaoke version of "I Love Rock and Roll" in a club, and when she starts trying to wow the audience, the film cuts back to his reaction, eyes widening yet, nonetheless, trying, ever so hard, to grin and act like he's really digging it. The poor guy! He doesn't look comfortable at all, and the really hard stuff is yet to come, when he has to decide whether or not to go to bed with this girl. (And, like several other sequences in the film, this is photographed in a dreadfully unflattering manner.)

The story has to do with three girls who were at one time best friends but, by the time high school graduation rolls around, they have drifted apart: one (Taryn Manning) lives in a trailer park and has a baby that's on the way; another (ZoŽ Saldana) is a teen queen, and is engaged to a guy who's attending U.C.L.A.; the third (played by Spears) is the class valedictorian who has worked so hard during the school year that she never had any time to have fun. Manning suggests the trip to California, ostensibly because of a contest that could lead to an audition for a recording contract, but it's also to see if the girls can renew their friendship (they do); to visit Saldana's fiance and find out if he's been faithful to her (he's not only been unfaithful to her, he's been VERY unfaithful to her); and for Spears to drop in, out of the blue, to see her estranged mother in Tucson.

The mother is played by Kim Cattrall, and when she asks why this strange young girl is on her doorstep, Spears replies, "I came to see you." "Why?" asks the mother. ""Cause you're my mother." "And why is that?" Cattrall's character replies. While I understand that a teenage girl needs some things that only a mother can provide, for this Spears' character has blown-off someone who, by all appearances, is a caring father (Dan Aykroyd) who raised her, on his own, back in Georgia: she left home without telling him, calls him twice, then hangs up on him twice. (It also leaves us to wonder how two people who look like Kim Cattrall and Dan Aykroyd could have produced someone who looked like Britney Spears.) But, hey! it's all part of the learning experience, along with the fact that, once they've not only hit the road but are well on their way on it, the girls find out that they don't know how much money they have to spend, where they're going to stop for the night, or how they're going to afford to eat. There's also the fact that the guy who's driving them (Mount's character) just got out of jail after having served a sentence for killing a guy. ("You mean I'm on a road trip with a killer?!")

Tamra Davis directed this film, presumably so that she could provide a "woman's perspective" on things. The results look not so much made, put, or slapped together as moved together, the way a straw moves ice cream and syrup around at the bottom of a soda fountain glass. The film is supposed to be a little loose, but it's so loose that it barely seems to be on the screen. There will, however, probably be much merriment made over this film in the press, with lots of bad writing that makes bad puns and references to the title of Spears' album "Oops! I Did it Again". My advice is: it's early in the year, guys, save your ammo for later.

Directed by:
Tamra Davis

Britney Spears
Taryn Manning
ZoŽ Saldana
Anson Mount
Kim Cattrall
Dan Aykroyd

Written by:
Shonda Rhimes

PG-13 - Parents
Strongly Cautioned.
Some material may
be inappropriate for
children under 13.





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