out of five
: 95 mins
As perfectly packaged as one of her pop-songs, Britney’s acting debut is surprisingly enjoyable. Cheesy, fluffy and cliché-laden, yes, but nowhere near as bad as you may have been led to believe.
Male fans of Britney Spears will no doubt be delighted to learn that her acting debut opens with her dancing around in her underwear, singing along to Madonna’s Open Your Heart.
This, for many, along with the similarly underwear-clad ‘Britney almost loses her virginity with her geeky lab-partner’ scene, will undoubtedly be the highlight of the movie. However, the rest of the movie is surprisingly enjoyable, largely due to Britney’s hitherto unsuspected screen presence and an all-pervasive sense of fun that rides roughshod over the assorted clichés and laughable moments.
The plot is simplicity itself, with the only vaguely confusing element being the exact nature of Britney’s friendship with her afore-mentioned geeky lab-partner, also known as The Luckiest Geek On Earth. (Or he would have been, had not Britney chickened out at the last moment – to her last-minute lament of ‘This isn’t how I thought it would be’, he replies ‘Are you kidding? This is EXACTLY how I thought it would be’, but, in a crushing blow to geeks everywhere, Britney stands firm and doesn’t go through with it).
Shortly after her disappointing prom night experience detailed above,
Britney, sorry LUCY, reunites with her two childhood best friends, bitchy cheerleader Kit (Zoe Saldana) and knocked-up trailer-trash waster Mimi (Taryn Manning, more or less reprising her role from crazy / beautiful), all three of whom had grown apart over those tricky high school years.
Coincidentally, however, all three of them have their own reasons for
wanting to embark on a road trip (Mimi to attend an audition in L.A., Kit to visit her elusive fiancé and Lucy to –sniff- find her mother who deserted her) and so, quick as a flash, off they go, in an open-top convertible driven by Ben (Anson Mount, transcending his rent-a-hunk casting), who may or may not be an ex-convict.
It’s hard to know which element of the film is the most laughable. Is it the idea of Dan Ackroyd as Britney’s over-bearing father? Is it the karaoke contest that miraculously appears just when they need some cash? Or perhaps it’s the moment when Britney, who (ahem) has never sung in public before, has about two seconds of demure shyness before launching into a rocking version of I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll and throwing in some pole-dancing to boot.
No, wait, maybe it’s the idea of Britney as an expert mechanic. Or perhaps some of the cheesy lines, such as the moment when Ben asks her what she writes in her journal and she looks up at him with shining eyes and replies “Poems, mostly”. Or the moment when Ben sets one of those poems to music and it just happens to be Britney’s latest single (Not Yet A Woman)?
In fact, the truth is that, as laughable as all of the above moments are, the infectious perkiness of Britney’s performance (and the strong support from Saldana and Manning) is enough to overcome all of them and you’ll find yourself grinning and tapping your feet despite yourself.
The film is also, fascinatingly, not without its subtle subversive side, particularly in light of Britney’s squeaky-clean ‘no sex’ public image.
For all its moralising (Mimi’s pregnant because she got drunk once and was date-raped), Crossroads still includes scenes of Lucy getting drunk, acknowledging that she has fooled around (“Lucy touched one!”) and, yes, losing her virginity to someone she has known for less than a week. Not only that, but she appears to be having a blindingly good time while doing so.
To sum up, then, Crossroads is something of a guilty pleasure - you know it’s cheesy and that you shouldn’t really be enjoying it, but you do anyway. At any rate, it’s guaranteed to please Britney fans of all ages. Worth seeing. No, really.