Rated PG-13 - Running Time: 1:34 - Released 2/15/02

When teenage girls become international pop stars, they are inundated with attention, both good and bad. The good kind is 50,000 fans chanting "We love you, Britney!" at a concert, or getting a brand new candy-apple red sportscar for your 16th birthday. The bad kind is 45-year-old stalkers, fake naked pictures of you showing up on the Internet, and movie producers. For Britney Spears, who just turned 20 in December, it was the latter. Spears is the latest in a long line of young performers who have been convinced by greedy, soulless Hollywood execs that because they are famous, they should make movies. Who cares if you can't act? You're famous! Milk it for all it's worth! There's money to be made!

As would be appropriate for someone who is apparently thought to personify what it is to be a 21st-century American girl, Spears stars in her first feature film, a predictably fluffy, estrogen-powered movie-of-the-week called Crossroads about three high school girlfriends who travel across country to find themselves, with a hunky older guy at the wheel. Written by Shonda Rhimes, directed by Tamra Davis, Crossroads exudes teen cute, with sprinkles of scantily clad T&A (but not enough to score an R rating), a little romance, and some heartsick conflict thrown in for drama, but is designed mainly to showcase Spears's annoying, Mariah-Carey-esque singing style, her perky personality, and her killer bod.

Spears plays Lucy, the valedictorian of her Georgia high school, whose relationship with her former best friends, punky and pregnant Mimi (Taryn Manning) and fashion-conscious Kit (Zoe Saldana), has deteriorated badly by the night of their graduation. After some discussion about how they're not friends anymore, Mimi announces that she's planning a trip to L.A. to audition for a record company, and inexplicably invites the others to come along. At first they refuse, but Kit's desire to see her fiancé in California and Lucy's wish to meet her long-absent mom in Arizona change their minds. Lucy leaves a note for her loving, overprotective, personality-challenged dad (Dan Aykroyd) and packs her things.

As it turns out, Mimi has arranged transport with a twenty-something rock guitarist and ex-con named Ben (Anson Mount), who may or may not have "killed a guy." They all pack into his 1973 Skylark convertible (you always have to have a vintage convertible for a cross-country road trip—you want to have wind, sand, and bugs hitting you in the face for seven days) and set out with no plans, very little money, and plenty of luggage.

The events that take place are too predictable to mention, including plenty of all-girl singalongs to the worst songs recorded by N-SYNC, Shania Twain, and Sheryl Crow, with one good one (Joan Jett's "I Love Rock n' Roll") thrown in. The acting is strictly sophomoric, with the possible exception of the nearly 30-year-old Mount, who's so thrilled to be surrounded by hot young legal babes, he doesn't care. Spears's technique indicates she's a graduate of the Brady Bunch Acting Academy, and Manning speaks as though her tongue is numb. The film is shot like something you'd see on the Spice channel; camera angles are frequently designed to include someone's bare midriff in the foreground. Still, regardless of its faults, this film will no doubt do well at the box office. After all, there are plenty of young girls out there who want to be Britney, and plenty of young boys who want to see her in her panties. **

Copyright 2002 by John R. McEwen and The Republican

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