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Pop diva is decent, but 'Crossroads' is still not very good

Friday, February 15, 2002

By Barbara Vancheri, Post-Gazette Staff Writer

Earlier this week, while promoting her movie "Crossroads," Britney Spears told USA Today, "Honestly, if critics like it, I'm going to be really worried, because everything the critics like, I freakin' don't like."


RATING: PG-13 for sexual content and brief teen drinking

STARRING: Britney Spears

DIRECTOR: Tamra Davis

WEB SITE: www.crossroads



Not to worry, Britney.

However, the pop princess proves herself a decent actress, as long as she's playing a character close to herself. She has a sort of Katie Holmes quality -- little girl voice, womanly body, with tanned and toned midriff on frequent display. In "Crossroads," she has a brief scene where her character is tearful and emotionally devastated and she pulls it off.

"Crossroads" is about three onetime friends who reunite for a road trip to California and, of course, learn a little something along the way.

The girls are Lucy (Spears), the class valedictorian who is being raised by her divorced father (Dan Aykroyd), a mechanic who wants his daughter to be a doctor; Mimi (Taryn Manning), a girl from the wrong side of the tracks who is unmarried and pregnant; and Kit (Zoe Saldana), a former chubby child who is now a tall, thin, pampered beauty engaged to a college student.

It's clear that 18-year-old Lucy is living out her father's dreams and not her own. In the pursuit of good grades, she never went to football games or parties or stayed out late. She aims to lose her virginity on graduation night with her nerdy pal and longtime lab partner (Justin Long, Warren from "Ed") but can't go through with it.

Everything changes when Mimi proposes that the trio, who drifted apart since childhood, join her on a post-graduation trip to California. She's found the requisite handsome and mysterious stranger, Ben (Anson Mount), to drive the girls in his 1973 Buick convertible. Lucy agrees to go, but she plans to stop in Arizona, where her absentee mother lives.

Nothing goes as planned, and when the car breaks down in Louisiana, the girls have to enter a karaoke contest to earn money to fix the radiator. California brings further surprises for everyone.

It's clear from the beginning that Lucy loves music, although when Spears cuts loose, she has such practiced, polished moves that it's hard to buy her as an amateur. The movie provides plenty of opportunity for Spears to sing and to showcase her hit song, "I'm Not a Girl, Not Yet a Woman."

The story is filled with contrivances (you can see a twist about Mimi's pregnancy coming from a mile away), a silly hissy fit and noble back story for Ben, and includes scenes in which the girls raid a hotel minibar and one discreetly but obviously loses her virginity. Aykroyd is the only parent in evidence, and he goes from strict to sweetly understanding before you can say, "Father of the Year."

As she proved recently on "Saturday Night Live," Spears has a narrow acting range, but within that comfort zone, she's quite competent and comfortable. Just don't ask her to play the brainy, nerdy girl again any time soon.

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