The recent trend of the songstress-turned-actress has had mixed results. Last year”s nervous breakdown-inducing Mariah Carey vehicle “Glitter” fizzled long before its September opening weekend, “earning” a paltry four million at the box office. A month ago, Mandy Moore had her first starring role in the screen adaptation of the best-selling novel “A Walk to Remember.” Moore also had a supporting role in the Disney student-turned-royalty family film, “The Princess Diaries.” Teen queen Britney Spears continues the trend and attempts to make the all-too-easy transition from music to film in “Crossroads.”
Spears starts off her Hollywood career with a character similar to her own life. Spears plays Lucy, a high school senior with dreams of becoming a singer. The film opens with a flashback of Lucy with her two best friends, Mimi (Taryn Manning, “Crazy/Beautiful”) and Kit (Zoe Saldana, “Get Over It”), burying a box full of trinkets that is to be opened on graduation night. Flash forward to high school, where the three have gone their separate ways. Lucy is valedictorian of her class, but more importantly, a virgin. Mimi is now preganant and living in a trailer park, a sharp contrast from Kit, who is high class and the most popular girl in school.
The characters in “Crossroads” are generic, predictable and bland. Neo-realism this is not. The plot unfolds like a broken air mattress, with little logic to the procession of events. In the span of a few minutes, the three girls have reconciled and decide to follow their dreams via a road trip to California. They find a driver in the form of Ben (Anson Mount, “Boiler Room”), a rock guitarist with a convertible. Ignoring the fact the girls don”t even know him, they leave Georgia with $486 in tow.
A cracked radiator puts a brief halt to their road shenanigans, just enough time for the girls to win a karaoke contest in New Orleans. The scene is one of many not-so-sly ways director Tamra Davis (“Half Baked,” “Billy Madison”) utilizes the film as a commercial for Britney”s music.
“Crossroads” lacks variety. Half of the 88-minute-long story is devoted to scenes of the friends singing eardrum-piercing tunes to the dismay of Ben who just wants to rock. At one point they even sing one of Britney”s real life boyfriend”s tunes, N”SYNC”s “Bye Bye Bye.” Britney fans will be content with the repeated use of her song “Not a Girl, Not Yet a Woman” throughout the film. The song is played three times, debuting in the form of a poem. Robert Lowell she is not.
Aside from Miss Spears and her two sidekicks, the supporting cast is an eclectic mix of washed up has-beens. Dan Aykroyd (“Ghostbusters”) plays Britney”s overbearing father, having gained close to 100 pounds since his last major release. Kim Cattrall (“Big Trouble in Little China,” “Sex and the City”) has a small bit as Britney”s mother, taking up fewer than five minutes of screen time. The real gem in the casting is Jesse Camp (sans the 8th Street Kidz) as an extra. The former MTV VJ can be seen in the background of the last scene talking to nobody.
The big question is can Britney pull off the acting gig? Survey says no. “Crossroads” is not what fans of Britney might expect. The film is likely to create a rift with its targeted younger viewers” parents, as themes like teen pregnancy, underage drinking and premarital sex run rampant. Young males obsessed with the pop princess will be more than pleased to see Britney wearing nothing but a bra and panties in two scenes at the beginning of the film. Sadly, when the clothes come back on the momentary excitement comes to a cataclysmic halt.
“Crossroads” is nothing more than an extended music video, with an extended metaphor of the road trip as the road to womanhood for its three clichd females. Clever? No. Idiotic? Yes. A better title for the film would have been “Not a Girl, Not Yet a Woman and Never an Actress.”