Dreams change. Friends are forever.
And so I complete what I affectingly refer to as my "pop trilogy" reviews. Over the past few months, I've reviewed the Mariah Carey debacle Glitter and the surprisingly good Mandy Moore three hankie drama A Walk To Remember. (I'm tempted to count *N'Sync's On The Line, but…) Now the circle comes to a close with Britney Spears' big screen debut Crossroads (not to be confused with the 1986 Ralph Macchio film of the same name). Miss Spears' first starring vehicle took the age old road trip genre and did exactly what I expected it to do: pander to its teenage demographic. The film was a hit at the box office, though it may not have been the powerful explosion Spears had hoped for. Also starring Anson Mount (Boiler Room), Zoe Saldana (Center Stage), Taryn Manning (Crazy/Beautiful), Justin Long (Jeepers Creepers), Dan Aykroyd (Ghostbusters) and Kim Cattrall (TV's Sex and The City), Crossroads croons its way onto DVD care of Paramount Home Entertainment.
Facts of the Case
Lucy (Spears), Kit (Saldana), and Mimi (Manning) were the best of friends. As kids they played together, laughed together, and buried a time capsule together, only to be opened on their high school graduation at midnight sharp. Flash forward to their senior year: Lucy is a brainiac virgin; Kit is an engaged, self centered snob; and Mimi is a trailer trash talking toughie who had the unfortunate luck of getting pregnant. Needless to say, the three girls have gone their separate ways. Through a series of events too banal to discuss here, the three girls come together at midnight to dig up their box of memories long since buried. In the box, each girl discovers her childhood dream: Mimi wants to get out of her small town, Kit wants to be married, and Lucy wants to be a singer (do you see the shock on my face? DO YOU?!?!). The decision is made that the girls must venture to L.A. where Kit's fiancée is living and a singing audition awaits Lucy and Mimi! Their ride is supplied by Ben (Mount), a grungy band member who was in jail for possibly killing someone. This deters none of the girls. As they make their way across the land of the free and the brave (I have the sneaking suspicion that when our founding fathers said "liberty for all" they didn't mean the makers of this film), each girl will come face to face with her future…as well as sing along to chick songs on the radio. God save us all.
When Britney pops up on screen for the first time, she's dancing provocatively in her skivvies to a Madonna song. What a way to make an entrance. As a porn star, it's first rate. As a serious minded actress, it's like letting the air out of all your tires—it's going to take you nowhere fast. Either way, I'm sure that dirty old men everywhere are singing her praises. I'm cringing as I type this review cliché, but here goes: Crossroads is the equivalent of cotton candy. It's almost as substantial with twice the sugar. After the movie disappeared from the TV screen, it did a vanishing act from my memory just as fast. Spears couldn't have picked a blander, uniformly unexciting script if she tried. I think that there are two rules associated with the road movie genre: either make it a full blown comedy, or…actually, that's it. A road movie should be an out and out comedy. End of story. Crossroads tries desperately to be a comedy, a romance, a drama, and a musical all rolled into one. It falls flat on every level.
The big brouhaha about Crossroads is that it was Britney's first acting gig. And boy, can she act! Taking a cue from her local community theater, Britney does a great job at pouting, giggling, batting her eyes, and talking like a spicy southern black woman. As an extra added bonus, Spears never misses an opportunity to bare her midriff to the camera. Brit, here's a nickel's worth of free advice: grinding your hips is not Oscar material. Actually, the simple fact is that Lucy was the perfect role for Britney: she's a girl that just wants to sing. See, she's misunderstood by her father (played by a paunchy Dan Aykroyd, now an official part of the "what the hell happened to me?" club) and just wants to be herself! Sound familiar? I guess Spears wasn't interested in stretching her first time out. Nothing says ill-advised like dramatically reciting one of your cheesy pop songs to a guy while sitting around a camp fire. The supporting cast includes Zoe Saldana (token black girl) and Taryn Manning (token feisty girl) as Lucy's buddies. Manning appears to have the best range of the three while Saldana goes though the motions from cranky pretty girl to caring friend (with none of her transformation coming off as believable). Apparently, Kim Cattrall, as Lucy's deadbeat mother, couldn't find a better movie to appear in during her hiatus from her popular cable network series.
The movie includes almost every woman's road movie rule in the book. Here's the list:
Rule #1: The girls must sit around in their pajamas eating strawberries and chocolate while talking about such earth shattering events as boys and sex.
Rule #2: The girls have to lose all of their money halfway into the trip so they can eventually win in back in some kind of a contest (preferably stripping or singing).
Rule #3: The girls must take their trip in an old convertible (no exceptions).
Rule #4: Someone must have a woeful story to tell (preferably about a rape and/or death/abandonment of a parent).
Rule #5: The girls must first dislike each other before they can love each other.
Rule #6: There must, must, must be a sing along where the girls bounce and giggle back and forth arm in arm (preferably in the backseat, while the car is moving).
Rule #7: One of the girl's must have sex which will go unseen by the audience. This will only happen when soft music is playing next to a beach.
And so on, and so on. Crossroads hits almost everyone one of these tired clichés with impressive accuracy. This wouldn't have been a major stumbling block had the movie not included such flat writing and a lack of even the slightest amount of wit. The screenplay was penned by Shonda Rhimes whose previous credits include Introducing Dorothy Dandridge and…that's about it. This should be the nail in her collective writing career coffin. Director Tamara Davis (CB4, Half-Baked, Billy Madison) tries her best to do something with the material, but the script is too little, too late.
I have a few thoughts on the film's PG-13 rating. It makes me question who the film was really made for. Spears' fan base, it seems, would be under the age of 13. So why make a movie that isn't designed for that age range? On an only slightly different note, both the movie and Lucy's character seem a bad role model for impressionable young teens. Much is made about the fact that Lucy's a virgin, yet the film makes no attempt to promote abstinence or at least safe sex. In fact, instead of Lucy sleeping with a clean, nice guy from her chemistry class (which would have been the best solution for an already bad idea), she hops into bed with an scraggly ex-con who doesn't shave and plays in a band. Maybe I'm an old fuddy duddy, but I think this movie sends the wrong message to her young fans.
The ending is contrived. The characters are boring. The script is lame. While Crossroads certainly isn't as bad as Glitter (phew!), it won't go down as anything more than a quickie flash from an era where bubble gum pop ruled the charts…momentarily.
Crossroads is presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. Unlike the movie, this transfer is sharp and very well produced. With a solid array of color patterns and well saturated black levels, this picture appears to be void of any unnecessary grain, dirt of other major imperfections. While I did spot a couple instances of edge enhancement in a few key scenes, overall this is a very pleasing image and a solid effort by Paramount.
The soundtrack is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround in English, as well as Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround in English and French. This mix came off exactly as I'd expected: the directional effects kick in only sporadically when one of Spears' or her peer's pop songs are playing in the background. The range and fidelity on this soundtrack is nice, though it's nothing close to reference quality. Overall, the dialogue, effects, and music are void of any excessive hiss or distortion. Also included on this disc are English subtitles.
Do you hear the ear shattering high pitched screeching of adolescent voices in the air? It must be because Crossroads comes complete in a Paramount "Special Collector's Edition" that features oodles and oodles of material on the film and—most importantly—Britney Spears!!! Starting off this disc is a lame-o introduction by Britney herself welcoming us to the DVD. This feature takes all of about 12 seconds and is completely pointless.
"The Making of Crossroads: 40 Days with Britney" is an MTV-style look at the film's production featuring interviews with the cast and crew, behind-the-scenes footage, and clips from the film. Britney really stresses here that while the movie is funny and cute, there are also "real issues that teenagers go though" in the film. I wonder if she's talking about throwing $8.50 of your hard earned cash down the drain to sit though her movie? Everyone interviewed in this film seems to think they're making the next Say Anything or Breakfast Club. If so, they're sadly mistaken. "Tyran's T-Shirts" is a short how-to on making some of the T-shirts used in one of the rock and roll sequences. Unless you're female and ten, you can skip this. Rounding out the featurettes is "First in Line: Inside the Crossroads Premiere" hosted by co-star Zoe Saldana. This is just one big look at the film's theatrical premiere with everyone gushing over how great the movie is.
Next up is a commentary by director Tamara Davis, writer Shonda Rhimes, and producer Ann Carli. This is one of those commentaries that you'll either love or hate depending on your opinion of the film. All three women are very chatty participants who have a lot to say on the story, the casting (oh, they all just LOVE Britney), and what it was like to work on the production. Seven deleted scenes are featured with introductions by director Davis. Each of these scenes is presented in non-anamorphic widescreen, and one even features all three main characters flashing unsuspecting neighbors in a local hotel. Oh-la-la! Otherwise, the director was smart to have cut each of these mediocre scenes. "Break Though Britney" allows the viewer to switch on a feature that makes Britney pop up during the film and give her thoughts on a particular scene or idea. This is basically like having a visual commentary by Britney Spears that is sporadic and far too perky. "Edit Your Own Music Video" is one of those little interactive features that was really cool to have a few years ago, but has now become stale and boring. The gist of this is that you can take certain scenes from a Britney music video and rematch them any old way you please.
Finally, there are two music videos by Britney Spears ("Overprotected" and "I'm Not a Girl, Not Yet a Woman"), four TV spots, a photo gallery of images from the film, a domestic theatrical trailer, and an international theatrical trailer for the film.
Anyone under the age of 16 will just go ga-ga over this movie. Anyone over the age of 16 and below the age of 18 will find it to be just so-so. Anyone over the age of 18 who actually enjoys Crossroads should seek psychiatric help. And if I have to type the word "Britney" one more time I'm going to projectile vomit.
"I'm not a girl…not yet an actress…"
Crossroads is found guilty of being…err, well…actually, it's just guilty of being!
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