Crossroads Movie Review

Freshly graduated from jail bait status, Britney Spears wastes no time getting down to her skivvies for her acting debut in the coming-of-age road movie "Crossroads."

After a prologue in which three little girls bury a box of mementos and pledge to dig it up the night of their high school graduation, the film cuts to eight years later when one of those girls has grown up into Lucy (Spears), who is introduced bouncing around her room, lip-syncing to Madonna songs in her two-sizes-too-small underwear.

Later she appears in an even teeny-weenier pink bra and panties -- then in a towel, then in a wet dress, a bikini and several other low-cut and high-cut outfits. Perhaps this is a concession to the all the reluctant teenage boyfriends that will get dragged to this picture by their Britney-loving girlfriends.

Surprisingly enough, Spears angles for some real-girl credibility by sporting plain old sweatpants and T-shirts for a good portion of the movie as well. Even more surprising is the fact that, as transparently plotted teenage road trip flicks go, "Crossroads" is very entertaining. I'll admit it: I tried to hate this movie, but it won me over.

Spears turns in a respectable performance as Lucy, whose life so far has been all about good grades and early curfews. Her loving but smothering auto mechanic father (Dan Aykroyd) has been succeeding vicariously through Lucy ever since her mom split when she was 3 years old. Despite being a knockout and the school's provocatively-clad Valedictorian, she's supposedly so much in the "out" crowd that she's planning to lose her virginity to her nervously dorky science lab partner on the night of graduation (thus the pink bra and panties).

But, good girl that she is, Lucy can't talk herself into doing it with someone she doesn't love just to get it over with. So instead she decides to do something spontaneous. She embarks on a North Carolina-to-California trip with her two childhood chums -- prissy prom queen Kit (Zoe Saldana, "Center Stage") and pregnant trailer park tart Mimi (scene-stealer Taryn Manning, "crazy/beautiful").

All kinds of unlikely things happen on this trip as the girls, who had drifted apart, get to know each other again and Lucy flirts with Ben (Anson Mount), the handsomely scruffy, guitar-playing college boy that Mimi recruited to drive them in his muscle car convertible. The most egregious plot device, designed to get Britney half naked and singing again, comes when their car breaks down and the girls win enough money to pay for the whole trip (from a new radiator to a beachfront hotel room in L.A.) by putting on a show in a karaoke bar.

Yet the movie's connect-the-dots plot and highly-telegraphed conflicts (Lucy meeting her heart-of-ice mother, Kit breaking up with her cheating fiancé, Mimi being knocked up) are balanced out by fun-loving performances, unaffected earnestness and well written, consistently amusing banter.

"Crossroads" also has a certain level of camp value, especially when it comes to shoehorning a couple Britney's songs into the picture. She's a poet, it seems, and Ben is a musician. You do the math.

Director Tamra Davis ("Billy Madison," "Half-Baked") never takes her nose out of the Filmmaking 101 textbook for this movie. But while the plot advancement is elementary at best, clumsy at worst, "Crossroads" is genuinely cheerful and genuinely character-driven by characters who are hard to dislike (try as I might). Once disarmed by their charms, forgiving the picture is simplicities, fallacies, and eventually its cheap manipulations, becomes so easy that I'm not even embarrassed to say, I liked a Britney Spears movie!

Comments

Crossroads Rating

" Weak "

Rating: PG-13, Opened: Friday, February 15, 2002

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