Artsweek arrives late. Artsweek is always late. Alex and Steven walk in just as Lucy (Britney Spears, the up-and-coming songstress and star of such films as “Britney Spears: ‘Star Baby’ Scrapbook”) is explaining to her father (Dan Aykroyd) how difficult it was for her to be class valedictorian. By the time Dan and Erin arrive with enough snack food to stock a fallout shelter, belief has been not so much suspended as entirely expelled.
“Crossroads” joins blockbusters “Glitter” and “On the Line” as the latest pop-star vehicle to leave American adolescents insecure and socially sedated. Artsweek knows you don’t expect us to review this straight-faced, which is why we brought a tape recorder and simply recorded ourselves talking shit for an hour and 20 minutes. We missed the first 10 minutes, and therefore will assume that that was the best part of the movie.
Lucy hits the road with her childhood friends Mimi (Taryn Manning) and Kit (Zoe Saldana), as well as the mysterious Ben (Anson Mount, who combines the rugged good looks of Ben Affleck with the emotional range of Ben Affleck).
Alex: Dude, if this doesn’t take a “Thelma and Louise” turn, I want my money back.
Dan: Why, so you can see Britney kill herself?
Alex: Or at least “Boys on the Side.” I want to see her flash her breasts and club some guy to death.
For a movie called “Crossroads,” one would expect some sort of life-altering decision, or at least for someone to utter the word crossroads, or even a significant shot of two intersecting highways: no such luck. Writer Shonda Rhimes is obviously a student of Cameron Crowe at his arbitrary-plot-point best, but shuns the use of plot points in favor of … well, we’re not sure what. In fact, she seems to have done everything in her power to shield Britney from acting through any peaks and troughs, unless one counts the swell and hollow of her cleavage. Though one should definitely count that.
Mimi shows her friends an invite to an open audition for singers in Los Angeles.
Alex: So it’s like two producers stood at opposite ends of a field and hurled “Glitter” and “Spice World” at each other with as much force as possible.
Dan: They’re like the Spice Girls in a way. Mimi is Sporty Spice, Kit is Posh Spice and Britney is Strange-Retarded-Alien-Virgin Spice.
Mimi tells Ben that Lucy “isn’t like us,” on behalf of the entire human race. Unlike the nauseating self-absorption Mariah Carey displayed in “Glitter” and the genuinely entertaining self-effacement in “Spice World,” Britney seemed bizarrely detached. She didn’t even seem to be riding an ego boost. Watching her say her lines was like watching Mr. Ed say his lines. This made her less repulsive than Carey, but once the booby shots abruptly and ill-advisedly ceased halfway through the movie, it became difficult to pay attention to her at all. Except when she smiled. Her teeth are positively phosphorescent.
Which also raises the issue of the weight placed on Britney’s virginity. Personally, we find it difficult to picture her climaxing at all. In fact, we’re hard-pressed to say she even has a vagina.
Since nothing actually happened to Britney, we were left coasting on the emotional momentum of Manning and Saldana. Though Manning exhibited the best Southern accent of the bunch, her diction left Steven convinced she was sporting a retainer. Saldana, as the OBC (Obligatory Black Character), was apparently instructed to act “black; sassy and black.” Kim Cattrall delivered her two lines as Lucy’s mother with conviction, but we’re still passing the hat to try and tide her over until the next season of “Sex and the City” with her self-respect intact.
Meanwhile, Mimi, Kit and Lucy (Larry, Moe and Britney) enter a karaoke contest to raise money for car repairs.
Alex goes into conniptions when the he sees the lyrics on the screen are to Joan Jett’s “I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll,” curling into a fetal position and moaning, “I can’t do this. I gotta leave. This is wrong and wrong and bad and wrong.”
This scene really, really sucked. Let’s move on, OK?
Lucy agrees to read Ben a poem from her journal as long as he promises not to laugh.
Alex: I make no such promises.
She breaks into a monotone recitation of the lyrics to “Not a Girl, Not Yet a Woman.”
Steven: Is there an Oxford Companion to this?
Mimi runs out of the bushes alarmed over a snakebite.
Erin: Oh, I think that one’s Britney’s.
A quick survey of the audience revealed several other groups talking back to the movie, a couple that wouldn’t stop snogging, and one transient guy who brought his guitar to keep busy. Surprisingly absent was the pre-teen set. Surprisingly still present was Artsweek. We realized our mistake and beat a hasty retreat back to the office, where drinking is okay, sex isn’t stressful, and reaming movies is occasionally a challenge.