The good news about Crossroads is that it is not a complete disaster. The bad news is that there really is no reason to sit through this movie. Critics of Britney Spears the performer (don't know if musician necessarily applies in her case) deride her and her music and manufactured bubble gum, conveniently packaged for the masses. Recently, she has shed her good-girl image in favor of more risque persona. Now, like other female pop stars which include Madonna, Janet Jackson, Aaliyah (Romeo Must Die), Mandy Moore (A Walk to Remember), and Mariah Carey (Glitter), Spears is branching into the acting world. Where Jackson and Madonna found some success and Carey was a critical and commercial nightmare, Spears falls squarely into the middle. Even after watching Crossroads, one cannot tell if she can act because she never has the opportunity to do so. Crossroads is just as prefabricated as her music if not worse. Her songs have little substance, but they are at least catchy. Crossroads has little substance and is monotonous.

Crossroads is a road trip undertaken by three childhood friends. Lucy (Spears) is going to Arizona to find her mother, who left when Lucy was three. Mimi (Taryn Manning, crazy/beautiful) is pregnant and on her way to Hollywood to audition for a recording contract. Kit (Zoe Saldana, Get Over It, Center Stage) is on her way to meet her fiance, who is not coming home for the summer. The three of them were childhood friends, but drifted apart as they grew older, to the point that they really do not care to be in each other's presence by graduation. They made a pact as kids to dig up a box of memories at midnight when they graduated, and all three end up coming together to do this. Mimi offers a ride to California, and surprisingly, they all accept although they hate each other. The driver is Ben (Anson Mount, Urban Legends: Final Cut, Boiler Room), an older friend of Mimi's who spent some time in jail. The rumor around school is that he killed somebody. So off they go, on a cross-country road trip that is surprisingly dull. It's as if screenwriter Shonda Rhimes (Introducing Dorothy Dandrige, Blossoms and Veils) took all the potentially interesting parts, then ignored them in favor of what happens between those parts. First, it is not fun watching three people who dislike each other argue constantly. Then, they begin bonding quickly. The transformation is abrupt and not believable.

What makes Crossroads unappealing is a lack of personality of all its main characters. First, they hate each other. Then, they love each other. Director Tamra Davis (Skipped Parts, Half Baked) has many serious issues in the story, but manages to gloss over most of them. Date rape, child abandonment, loss of virginity, and teen pregnancy all figure prominently in the story, but are noticeably absent from any meaningful examination. The eventual romance between Lucy and Ben comes out of nowhere. Spears plays a shy, smart, straight-laced valedictorian who never parties, and never had sex. Yet, when Mimi, the performer, gets stage fright in a karoake contest, it is Lucy who struts it up and sings up a storm. There are plenty of instances for sing-a-longs, both to three of Spears' songs, and other songs by Madonna, Sheryl Crow, and Shania Twain. This is nothing more than an extended music video for Spears, who looks like she can act when given such bad material. Surprisingly, Dan Akroyd (The Curse of the Jade Scorpion, Evolution) does the worst job in this movie. He plays Lucy's dad, and does little more than scold her, with arms clenched at his side.

On a final note, Crossroads is an odd choice for Spears. She must have tons of people advising her on what to do to further her career, and it's baffling how such a mediocre movie could pass through the cracks. The material is absolutely not suitable for her younger fans, and is handled too clumsily for her older fans. Crossroads also tends to e a little on the depressing side. At times this feels like a commercial for Spears, what with her songs and the ever presence of Pepsi and Mountain Dew cans. Her older, more wholesome persona would make a nice, feel good movie that people can enjoy. Her newer, edgier persona could make a more serious movie. Instead, she just makes one that is not interesting. Will it matter to her fans? Probably not. But in the pop world, where people and acts fade, Crossroads will not help her prolong her current reign.

Haro Rates It: Pretty Bad.
1 hour, 34 minutes, Rated PG-13 for sexual content and brief teen drinking.

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