`I'm not a singer, not yet an actress'
By C. SPENCER BEGGS
"Crossroads" is abysmally bad. The trite MTV-hyped movie delivers little more than lame fairy tales for teens that can't even deliver a remotely coherent message.
The movie begins by introducing three friends in sixth grade burying a shoebox of mementos that signify their aspirations for the future; the girls make a pact to dig it up at midnight on the day of their high school graduation. Flash forward, six years and the three friends, the nerdy and sexually curious valedictorian virgin Lucy (Britney Spears), prom queen perfectionist Kit (Zoe Saldana) and pregnant trailer-trash tough-girl Mimi (Taryn Manning), have drifted apart and are barley speaking to each other.
After Lucy makes an unsuccessful attempt to lose her virginity, the three meet up to fulfill the pact (after Spears prances lithely around in her underwear for two scenes). When Mimi reveals that she is heading to California with the mysterious Ben (Anson Mount) to participate in an MTV open music audition, the other two girls put their differences on hold and come along to fulfill their childhood dreams: Lucy wanting to reunite with her estranged mother who lives (conveniently on the way) in Arizona and Kit wanting to see her suspiciously absent fiancée at his college in Los Angeles.
Of course, following in the footsteps of every teen road trip movie, the girls are required to use their wile and wit to make it to Cali: hilarity ensues – at least that's what it seems the film intends. In fact, "Crossroads" either has depressing subjects or it is simply not funny. Most of the laughs come from smart-ass comments audience members yell at the screen.
The movie mostly takes place in conversations in hotels and in Ben's '70s cruiser (an automobile that apparently has a magic radio that always tunes in at the beginning of all pop songs and in which nobody, including the pregnant woman, ever needs to wear a seatbelt). And even with cockamamie excuses to have two musical numbers and two sex scenes with Spears (scenes that conveniently cut away before anything interesting happens), the movie drags its entire 90 minutes to a lack luster conclusion.
The real problem with "Crossroads" is screenplay writer Shonda Rhimes' atrocious script. While the characters have relatively complex, albeit predictable, relationships and motivations, Rhimes throws so many issues into the mix that they can only be addressed by the bluntest delivery possible. Every line contains far to much background information to be remotely believable as a real piece of dialogue.
After the arduous and conveniently reoccurring "singing along to the radio in the car" scenes, the plot can only be advanced by jump cutting to scenes in which the characters have been involved in a conversation for a number of hours, but the audience enters at the crucial moment.
The producers of "Crossroads" seem to think that this technique gives them license to start scenes with overly philosophical lines. The characters appear to be all too willing to tell their whole life stories at the drop of a hat, a convention that leads to some jarringly cumbersome and unrealistic lines.
Of course, audiences shouldn't be surprised by he movie's blatant disrespect for their intelligences. After all, the theme song of "Crossroads" is Spears' "I'm Not a Girl, Not Yet a Woman:" MTV Films couldn't have been more literal with the image they are attempting to force feed the pre-teen to teen target demographic.
Further, "Crossroads" fails to make an intelligent or touching point. In the end, all the girls have a perfect resolution to their problems, which remarkably degrades the significance of the heavy issues the movie wishes to address such as rape, teenage pregnancy, fidelity and chastity.
Incidentally, Spears proves herself to be an adequate actress; after all, she does play Britney Spears everyday. But even Spears' perky "not so innocent" breasts (which drastically change size throughout the movie) cannot save "Crossroads" from forever being referred to as Britney's biggest bust ever. (1/2 shamrocks out of five)
Contact C. Spencer Beggs at email@example.com.
All Scene Stories for Thursday, February 21, 2002