Sunday, December 11, 2016


Welcome to another installment of the TRASH BIN, where we watch the worst movies Hollywood has to offer, according to the critics, and give you our thoughts, good or bad. This week we're looking at the 2002 film debut of pop star Britney Spears, CROSSROADS.

Howdy fellow film freaks, Robert here. Yeah, that's right. I actually watched Crossroads. Call it the curiosity born from having heard how terrible a movie is for years. After all those hyperbole-soaked declarations that Crossroads was an affront to road trip movies in particular and the cinema in general, when it showed up on Netflix recently I just had to give it a go. And now I'm back from that forbidden land to tell you about it.

Crossroads is the story of three former BFFs, Lucy (Spears), Kit (Zoe Saldana), and Mimi (Taryn Manning) taking a road trip from Georgia to California and the friendships rekindled, adventures had and life lessons learned along the way. They start off traveling together out of convenience more than anything. Molded by the ongoing experiment in Social Darwinism that is high school, the three don't care for each other very much these days. But Mimi wants to enter a talent competition in L.A., convinced it's her ticket to a better life. Kit wants to meet up with her UCLA student fiancé, who's been strangely disinterested in her lately for some reason. And Lucy wants to go to Arizona to find her mom, who left her and her father (played by Dan Aykroyd, of all people) for reasons unknown when Lucy was three. So the three hitch a ride with struggling musician Ben (Hell on Wheels' Anson Mount at the start of his career) and the road trip gets underway.

You can probably guess the rest. Think Lucy's reunion with her mom will go like she planned? Think Kit's fiancé might turn out to be a scuzz? Think the three girls will rekindle their BFF-ness? In fact, there's not much about Crossroads' story that you can't predict, right down to the fact that it won't be Mimi who enters that talent contest. Guess who does?

To call Crossroads a pop star vanity project seems a little unkind. Yes, it's very clearly The Britney Spears Show, with Spears getting plenty of opportunities to sing and/or flout that "hot virgin" persona that made her so popular at the start of her career. Everyone else is just kind of floating along in her orbit, doing their bit to move the story forward. But she's a decent actress, and she, Saldana and Manning work well together. Watching those three play off each other was the highlight of the movie for me.

My problem with Crossroads is that it's story is just so darn frothy. Take 8 Mile, a vastly superior take on the same type of story, give it that deep down sanitizing scrub that only too much careful husbandry of the star's image can bring, and overhaul the story until it's fun without being anything near compelling and you pretty much have Crossroads. We never get any real reason to care about Lucy as a person. Sure, it's made clear to us pretty early on that she's been working toward the goals her father set for her, instead of pursuing her own dreams, but there's never any real worry that things might stay that way. From the moment she gets in the car her breaking away from being Daddy's Good Little Girl is a foregone conclusion. There's nothing cathartic or victorious about Lucy's appearance in the talent competition in the film's final scene. A complete polar opposite of Rabbit's lyrical obliteration of Papa Doc in 8 Mile's final rap battle, Crossroads' ending is just another Britney Spears micro-concert. The scene doesn't even really fit into the movie, since there's no "competition" involved. Britney sings, the crowd goes nuts, and it's just assumed that she won. Maybe director Tamra Davis was going for the message that it doesn't matter whether Lucy won or not, since she's learned to love herself and seek her own path in life, but again, 8 Mile did it better. The final scene here feels bolted on in place of an actual ending.

The lesson to be learned from Crossroads, I think, is that it's never a good idea to heavily leverage a project behind the bankability of your star. That was the mistake made here, and so Crossroads will be remembered as "that Britney Spears movie" instead of "that road trip chick flick", which is more generic, but preferable. It's a decent TV movie that dreamed too big, and put too many eggs in one (admittedly appealing) basket. Let this be a lesson to future filmmakers.

Crossroads is rated PG-13 for sexual content and brief teen drinking.


Metacritic: 27/100
Rotten Tomatoes: 14%
IMDb: 3.3/10

Robert's Score: 5/10

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