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With: Britney Spears, Anson Mount, Zoe Saldana, Taryn Manning, Dan Aykroyd, Kim Cattrall, Justin Long, Beverly Johnson, Bahni Turpin, Kool Moe Dee, Richard Voll, Katherine Boecher
Written by: Shonda Rhimes
Directed by: Tamra Davis
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for sexual content and brief teen drinking
Running Time: 90
Date: 02/11/2002
IMDB

Crossroads (2002)

2 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Great Britney

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Let's see... I could spend several paragraphs trying to dissect the Britney Spears phenomenon, or I could simply tell you about her new movie, Crossroads, which turns out to be far more winning than expected, but without Spears would not be worth discussing. I suppose we shouldn't be surprised that Spears can carry a movie. She's already a dynamite performer in her videos and stage shows, perfectly combining a wholesome girl-next-door innocence with knockout sex-kitten appeal, not unlike Ann-Margaret or, to some extent, Betty Page. The first scene in Crossroads exploits this, with Spears dancing around in her cute little undies, singing along to Madonna's "Open Your Heart." (Many have already compared Spears to Madonna for having placed marketing savvy ahead of talent.)

Crossroads has Spears playing Lucy, one of three friends who plant a box of "wishes" in the ground as children and agree to dig it up at midnight the night of their high school graduation. But the girls grow apart over the years, and they barely know each other when they reluctantly show up for their rendezvous. Lucy is the valedictorian, a student who never had time for boyfriends or parties and has graduated without ever having had a good time (despite the fact that she dresses in great, sexy clothes). Mimi (Taryn Manning) is a wannabe singer who has a reputation for being "loose" and is, in fact, six months pregnant. Kit (Zoe Saldana) is the prom queen who went on to be too popular to associate with her "loser" friends. She's now concentrating on getting married to her away-at-college boyfriend. Mimi announces that she's taking a road trip to Los Angeles to start a singing career, inviting the others along if they'd care to come. Lucy decides to take a break from her domineering dad (Dan Aykroyd) and visit her mother (a perfectly cast Kim Cattrall), whom she's never met, in Arizona. Kit wants to visit her fiancée, who won't be coming home for his vacation. Driving the prerequisite road-trip convertible is mysterious musician Ben (Anson Mount), who played guitar at the girls' prom.

The girls get into all kinds of scrapes and fight a lot before they renew their friendship for good. When money runs low, they stop at a karaoke bar and -- with Britney singing a pretty cool cover of Joan Jett's "I Love Rock 'n' Roll" -- they earn enough cash to finish the road trip, and do it in style besides. As directed by Tamra Davis (Guncrazy, Billy Madison), the film has a loose, rangy feel. It manages to charm by evoking that special summer-road-trip vibe, despite the movie's many potholes and pit stops. When the group camps out in the desert, Ben breaks out a harmonica to play while sitting by the fire! And when Spears and company audition for the record label, the ordinarily stern judges can't help clapping their hands and grooving along (a la "Flashdance").

The movie tries to say a little something about girls who aren't quite girls anymore but not exactly women, either. (Spears sings a new hit song on this topic.) And poor pregnant Mimi and wedding-bound Kit learn hard lessons about growing up too fast. These scenes are nearly unforgivable, and completely predictable. Admirably, Spears does not pull a Glitter and hog the spotlight. The film gives equal time to her two co-stars. Moreover, I found Spears to be quite natural and engaging onscreen. She doesn't look nearly as chiseled or manufactured as I expected. She's cute but normal-looking, whether she's wearing a bathing suit or a pair of faded jeans and a T-shirt. She looks well-fed rather than twig-skinny, like so many other pop phenoms. The only thing that bugged me was her alarmingly white, straight teeth. I'm not saying that Spears is the next Meryl Streep, or that Crossroads comes anywhere near A Hard Day's Night. But many other pop stars have tried their hands at movies before Spears (Elvis Presley in Love Me Tender, Mick Jagger in Performance, Prince in Purple Rain, Madonna in Desperately Seeking Susan) and Crossroads turns out to be at least as entertaining as any of them. And it's at least as good as, if not better than, certain of this year's Oscar nominees. I'm a little embarrassed to be saying all this. But we'll call Crossroads a guilty pleasure and leave it at that.

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