2002, PG-13, 94 min. Directed by Tamra Davis. Starring Britney Spears, Anson Mount, Zoë Saldana, Taryn Manning, Kim Cattrall, Dan Aykroyd.

REVIEWED By Marjorie Baumgarten, Fri., Feb. 15, 2002

After a prologue, the movie begins with Britney Spears dancing around her peaches-and-cream bedroom in her Jockey underwear to the sound of Madonna crooning her hit “Open Your Heart.” The scene is a groan-worthy start to this pop tart's debut film performance. Unfortunately, it may also be the highlight of this utterly formulaic and forgettable teen trifle. It features Britney doing what Britney does best: wiggling, and writhing, and baring her midriff. Presciently, the scene also pays homage to the diva whose film career Britney's is most likely to emulate: Madonna. Once again, we are faced with a staggering example of how stage charisma does not automatically translate into acting skill. Crossroads functions mainly as a big-screen showcase for America's No. 1 teen tease, with the story and other characters serving mainly as accessories. The desired effect is to have us all pinned to our seats in helpless awe – the same way Viagra spokesman Bob Dole is at the end of those creepy Pepsi commercials. (By the way, not a soul drinks Coca-Cola in this movie.) The storyline sets out to demonstrate that “dreams change,” but “friends are forever.” (Never mind that this statement would probably be more accurate and potent in reverse – friends change but dreams are forever.) Spears plays Lucy, a high school valedictorian whose single father (Aykroyd) pressures her to keep her mind on her studies although her heart just wants to bop – and find her mother who abandoned her when she was 3. So she goes on a road trip with her two estranged childhood friends and a musician with a car (Mount). One friend is preggers (Manning) and the other is black (Saldana). Cattrall fills in as Lucy's long-gone mom who clues her in to the harsh facts of life. Episodes are thrown together with no inner logic other than showcasing young Britney. The girls enter a karaoke contest to raise some quick cash. The sum they raise is unbelievable, but the sequence does give Spears the opportunity to slither in some exotic pole-dancing. At another point, the girls grab the wheel of the car if only to afford Britney a reason to stick her fingers in the sleeping man's front pants pocket to get the keys. The only tension in this PG-13 movie (rated for sexual content and teen drinking) surrounds the uncertainty of whether America's professional virgin will shed her hymen for the sake of her art. But to think of Crossroads as a work of art is about as honest as thinking of Spears a virtuous teen. If you're curious if leading-man Mount eventually delivers on his name, you'll probably want to see the rest of the picture too. There's an open seat right next to Bob Dole.

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Crossroads, Tamra Davis, Britney Spears, Anson Mount, Zoë Saldana, Taryn Manning, Kim Cattrall, Dan Aykroyd

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