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CROSSROADS

Review by Michael Jacobson

Stars:  Britney Spears, Anson Mount, Zoe Saldana, Taryn Manning, Kim Cattrall, Dan Aykroyd
Director:  Tamra Davis
Audio:  Dolby Digital 5.1, Dolby Surround
Video:  Anamorphic Widescreen 1.85:1
Studio:  Paramount
Features:  See Review
Length:  93 Minutes
Release Date:  July 23, 2002

“Lucy…”

“Why do you keep saying my name like that?”

Film *

Ah…so you saw the one-star rating and automatically assumed I was just another in a legion of Britney-bashers, hmm?  Well, you’re quite wrong.

I like Britney Spears just fine.  I even own a couple of her CDs.  I think her music’s fun to listen to.  I think she has a nice voice and a good stage presence.  I think she has a terrific personality.  And I think she has what it takes to be a movie star, too.

Quite simply, what is wrong with Crossroads is not her fault.  Put Natalie Portman in her place in this movie, and you don’t get a better film.  The problem with it lies in the horrendous screenplay, which seems to be a patchwork of whatever after-school-special clichés weren’t being used that week, the direction, which should be film school textbook material on how NOT to put a movie together, and the editing, which is so filled with continuity problems that it’ll make your head hurt.

The story, such as it is, is this:  Britney plays Lucy, who’s not a girl and not yet a woman.  She just graduated from her small town high school as valedictorian, much to the delight of her overly involved father (Aykroyd), but not entirely to her own.  She has a couple of one-time friends in Mimi (Manning) and Kit (Saldana)…they were close once, but drifted apart over the years.  Luckily, they get together again just in time for a road trip.

Mimi wants to go to a record company audition in California.  Kit wants to see her fiancé, who’s in college on the West Coast.  Lucy just wants to meet the mother she never knew.  Driving the three girls is the handsome but possibly dangerous Ben (Mount).  Okay, I won’t go so far into the story as to spoil anything, but I’ll go even odds that you’ve read this paragraph and figured out at least half the plot points already.

This is a frustrating movie where the biggest moments happen off screen.  A medical emergency.  A reunion melt-down.  Even Britney…I’m sorry, Lucy…losing her virginity.  Oops, she did it again, indeed.

What’s left to watch isn’t worth watching…a bunch of tired road movie clichés made even worse by little absurdities.  For example, the foursome stops somewhere to joyfully shout for echoes where there ARE no echoes.  Or when they enter a karaoke contest…the girls go into the club’s restroom to change, and Lucy comes out with a perm.  A perm, for Pete’s sake.  And it’s also gone again just as quickly, so I guess you should actually make that a temp.  By the way, considering how much money they earn in tips supposedly for only a lame rendition of “I Love Rock and Roll”, I’m wondering if that was yet another scene where the good parts were left off screen.

In other parts, the continuity is so bad, it hurts.  She has a toothbrush in her mouth.  No, she doesn’t.  Wasn’t she on the other side just a minute ago?  Hey, whoa, did her hair just change in the middle of a scene?  Heck, just watch the finale, a rendition of “Not a Girl…” and see if any of the cuts seem to match worth a damn in your eyes.  I’m not familiar with the works of director Tamra Davis as a filmmaker, but I have to say, I don’t see her becoming the next Jane Campion.

I guess the only blame I can put at Britney’s feet is that this picture was created as a vehicle for her.  She was probably more flattered than she should have been.  Having seen her bits on “Saturday Night Live”, I think she’d do great in a comedy or anything where she’s not trapped into just playing a rendition of herself.  If she can find a movie where she doesn’t have to pretend the lyrics to one of her big hits is a poem she just wrote that happens to fit neatly into a song, that would be a start.

As the group’s journey nears it’s conclusion, Lucy actually remarks, “Doesn’t it seem like we were on the road a million years?”. 

Yes, it does.

Video ***

This is a good anamorphic offering from Paramount with a couple of minor flaws.  Though the coloring is natural looking and well rendered from beginning to end, I couldn’t help notice a touch of compression here in there in the form of a little haziness in close-ups and around the edges (possibly because of the number of features included), but these are minimal and not distracting; merely noticeable.  Images are generally sharp and well defined, and darker scenes come across with equal integrity to the lighter ones. 

Audio ***

The 5.1 soundtrack is decent enough…dialogue is clear, and of course, the music sounds good throughout.  Uses of the rear stage are slight…mostly for a bit of crowd noise here and there…and the .1 channel mostly just carries the bass of the songs.  Overall, it’s a good effort that serves the nature of the film well.

Features **** (if you’re a young girl, *** if you’re a crusty old movie critic like me)

Paramount should be commended for aiming their extras at just the right audience…the young Britney fan.  I’m positive they’ll love the features like “Break Through Britney”, which serves pop-ups of Ms. Spears throughout the movie sharing her thoughts and memories.  They’ll like the making-of featurette, which contains interviews with all the young stars and the director, the look at the movie premiere, and learning how to make special T-shirts with star Taryn Manning.  They’ll enjoy the Britney karaoke music videos for “Not a Girl” and “Overprotected” and the edit-your-own video feature.  Not to mention a brief introduction to the disc by Britney herself.

For those a little older than high school age and who are interested, there’s also a commentary track Davis, writer Shonda Rhimes and producer Ann Carli, two trailers, 4 TV spots, a short reel of deleted scenes introduced by Davis, and photo gallery. 

Summary:

Crossroads is a terrible film, but a solid DVD that ought to please most of Britney Spears’ young fans, with a plethora of extras aimed just at them.  For myself, I’ll still keep my eyes open for Ms. Spears’ true movie breakthrough.  Only now, I’ll have my fingers crossed as well.