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Rated 2.98 stars
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ReelTalk Movie Reviews
More Music Please
by Betty Jo Tucker

Britney Spears reminds me of Betty Grable, one of my favorite actresses when I was in junior high school. I loved Grableís energetic performances, especially in films like Coney Island and Tin Pan Alley. Her physical beauty combined with a sparkling singing and dancing talent to overshadow any acting deficiencies. Like Grable, Spears is lovely to look at, and she puts the same type of enthusiasm into her musical numbers. I can well understand why this pop star has so many pre-teen fans. What puzzles me is the lack of emphasis on music in Crossroads, Spearsí first film.

Instead, this teen road trip focuses on heavy drama. After graduating from high school, three former best friends decide to travel from Louisiana to California --- each for a different, but very serious, reason. Lucy (Spears) wants to find the mother who abandoned her; Kit (Zoe Saldana from Center Stage) seeks a reunion with a boyfriend whoís been ignoring her; and Mimi (Taryn Manning from Crazy/Beautiful) plans to audition for a record contest --- despite her rape-induced pregnancy. This unhappy trio accepts a ride from Ben (hunky Anson Mount of Urban Legends: The Final Cut), who may or may not be a convicted killer. Perhaps itís time to put a widespread rumor to rest once and for all now. Quentin Tarantino (Pulp Fiction) did not direct Crossroads. Tamra Davis, who helmed the comedy Billy Madison, obviously slipped out of her element here.

So whereís the music? Spears mimes Madonna lyrics in an early scene, performs in a karaoke contest, sings a couple of songs with the others while riding along in the car, and does a rousing closing number. Thatís about it. And dancing? Not much --- just Spears twirling around a pole once or twice. Maybe filmmakers couldnít afford a choreographer. (Or a costume designer either, judging from the starís skimpy outfits.)

Still, Iím glad I saw Crossroads. Now I know Spears has the potential for a successful screen career. Her acting, like Grableís, is not that bad. Sheís actually believable in several scenes, especially the ones with Saturday Night Live veteran Dan Ackroyd, who plays her demanding, overprotective father. I was also impressed with Kim Cattrallís (from TVís Sex and the City) brief appearance as the mother who deserted her 3-year old daughter. Cattrall projects a cold, calculating demeanor reminiscent of Jean Smartís brilliant maternal portrayal in Guinevere.

Because Crossroads is aimed at teenagers, its questionable morality bothers me. Underage drinking and sexual encounters as well as teens disobeying parents are treated in a rather blasť manner. And yet, I felt encouraged by the filmís highlighting of positive values like resourcefulness and friendship.

(Released by Paramount Pictures/MTV and rated "PG-13" for sexual content and brief teen drinking.)

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