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Bob Smithouser

Movie Review

Three 10-year-old girlfriends pledge an eternal bond as they covertly bury symbols of their lifelong dreams in the woods. The plan is to reconvene at midnight following high school graduation, dig up the box and reassess their lives. But at that age, eight years is an eternity. By the time their tassels are turned, each of the girls has chosen a markedly different social track. Mimi, the tomboy, is pregnant after being date-raped. Kit is the snobby homecoming queen whose fiancé has started attending college on the west coast. The virginal, studious Lucy is the valedictorian being pressured into a premed double-major by her loving, yet controlling father.

Reluctantly, the three former pals make good on their pledge. They excavate their childhood dreams and learn that Mimi is planning a cross-country road trip to audition for a singing career. Desperate to see her beau, Kit decides to tag along. Lucy sees this as her big chance to connect with the mother she never knew, who fled the family when she was three years old and is living in Arizona. So the feuding trio jump into a convertible owned by Ben (an ex-con they don’t even know) and head for California. The road trip gets rocky. But by the time they’re dipping their toes in the Pacific, Mimi, Kit, Lucy and even Ben are as tight as a pair of short shorts on a certain belly button-baring pop singer. [Warning: several key plot twists revealed below]

positive elements: Kit, Lucy and Mimi overcome their differences and, through lots of heartfelt confessions and girl-power chitchat, develop a deep respect and affection for one another. We learn that Ben spent time in jail for nobly rescuing someone from physical abuse. After consuming too much alcohol, one girl says, “I’m never drinking again.” Mimi responsibly avoids alcohol because she is an expectant mother, and speaks of her unborn child in terms that humanize the baby—a precious life she intends to keep. The pain of divorce and the effects of selfish, parental abandonment on children is made clear when Lucy’s attempt to find her mother ends in heartbreak. Tempted to surrender her virginity on graduation night, Lucy decides against it. Mimi’s plight, a consequence of poor judgment and alcohol, should make young girls think twice about accepting a ride with someone who’s been drinking. Unfortunately, several of these positives get squelched by mixed messages.

sexual content: Lucy and her nerdy lab partner, Henry, prepare to lose their virginity together in a hotel room (she reveals herself to him in lingerie and climbs in bed while Marvin Gaye’s “Let’s Get It On” plays on the stereo). Henry fears going to college a virgin, saying that guys who do are “treated like lepers.” Even though she decides against going all the way with Henry, Lucy has sex with Ben after they reach California. Behind her bedroom door, Lucy belts out a Madonna tune while wearing next to nothing. On the road, the girls play up their sex appeal to win a karaoke contest. The song they sing is Joan Jett’s “I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll,” about a girl who takes a stranger home for an implied sexual encounter. Spears’ younger fans probably aren’t mature enough to process the film’s emotionally charged “lessons” about date-rape, teen pregnancy and dealing with miscarriage. Without using “the word,” the girls giggle about Lucy���s admission that she has never touched a boy’s penis. While not blatantly sexual, the fact that strangers Lucy and Ben share even separate beds alone in a hotel room sets a dangerous example of compromise.

violent content: Kit and Mimi get into a slap-and-claw scuffle until Lucy breaks it up. Mimi decks a guy who makes a crass comment about her low moral standards. Kit punches her fiancé for two-timing her. Mimi falls down a flight of stairs and suffers a miscarriage. Ben, who fancies raw, violent music, belts a guy getting too frisky with Lucy on the dance floor. Without getting explicit, Mimi talks about being raped.

crude or profane language: About 30 mild profanities, several appearing in song lyrics (no s-words or f-words). Mimi flips a guy the finger.

drug and alcohol content: The girls get tipsy downing combinations of alcohol and fruit punch (a day or so later, one swears off the stuff). Patrons at a bar and Kit’s fiancé drink beer. Alcohol is mentioned in conjunction with a rape.

other negative elements: Young girls giddily confess that they’ve lied to their parents. Interspersed with outtakes, an immodestly dressed Britney Spears sings her song “Overprotected” (a belligerent declaration of independence) over the end credits. Other questionable lyrics embedded in the film include Sheryl Crow’s line, “If it makes you happy, it can’t be that bad” and a song repeatedly urging a woman to shake her “a–.” A group of young women are turned on by the intimation that Ben did time for murder.

conclusion: Oops, they did it again. Hollywood has created yet another implausible road picture about antagonistic characters who, over miles of empty highway and contrived encounters, become bosom buddies and find meaning in life. It’s been done. Many times. And far better. For one thing, are we to believe that three 18-year-old girls and an even more worldly guy embark on a cross-country road trip with only a modest wad of cash? And not even an upscale, pampered princess like Kit is carrying a credit card? Please! It’s a wonder these geniuses find California at all (from the deep south to the west coast, not once did anyone look at a road map).

Let’s face it, Crossroads is free-spirited, melodramatic hokum for Britney Spears fans and Britney Spears fans alone. Like slasher films that concoct just enough story to tie together the gruesome scenes of violence people pay to see, the “plot” here seems like filler to bridge self-promotional musical numbers and poor excuses for this not-a-girl-not-yet-a-woman to show off her bare midriff. It’s a Britney commercial. (Loyal pitchwoman that she is, Spears makes sure a can of Pepsi gets a little screen time too.) Of even greater concern are the movie’s “if it feels good, do it” morality, and mixed messages about drunkenness and sex. Both are shown to be loads of fun, yet potentially dangerous. Sadly, since most teens think they’re indestructible and uniquely equipped to beat the odds, chances are the average young viewer will embrace the fantasy with little regard for potential consequences.

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Bob Smithouser