Aaron Widmar
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Worst Road Trip Movies: Crossroads Review

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Crossroads  review inside car driving

Everyone in “Crossroads” enjoys laughing and sharing girl power.
Photo: Paramount Pictures; YouTube

Obviously, if you’re reading this article, you know which movie we’re talking about. That movie. The Britney Spears star-powered vehicle from 2002 that has 3/10 stars on IMDb.

It’s the film our site’s staff joked about reviewing when the Road Trip Movies series was suggested (and, clearly, actually went through with). It’s the one that was nominated for 8 Razzie Awards (appropriately losing to Madonna’s Swept Away). It’s the film that set Zoe Saldana’s screen career back until James Cameron saved it years later. It’s the film that’s the butt of jokes over a decade later.

But, is it truly as bad as its reputation suggests? Is it just the teen soap drama and chick flick fluff it’s known as?

The Plot

“Let’s go, girls!”

There’s three main character arcs that take place within Crossroads. Lucy (Britney Spears) is a hard-working valedictorian who missed out on her childhood by being pushed into her father’s (Dan Aykroyd) vision for her future. She desires to meet her mother, who left when she was young. Mimi (Taryn Manning) is the white trash outcast who, despite being pregnant, wants to start a singing career in California. Lastly, Kit (Zoe Saldana) is a rich girl in a long-distance relationship with her boyfriend on the west coast.

The three former-best friends live in small-town Georgia and, setting aside their differences, decide to go on a road trip to Los Angeles together, chauffeured  by possible-murderer Ben (Anson Mount). Along the way, they each experience situations that changes their lives and bring them to the crossroads between high school and adulthood...or something like that.

High school, like life in general, is a road trip: it’s about the experiences along the way, not just the achievement of surviving it.

The Vehicle

By “vehicle,” we’re not just referring to the film in general, which was engineered to propel Spears to super-stardom.

Crossroads review Yellow Car on road front 2

The four-wheeled vehicle for Spears.
Photo: Paramount Pictures; YouTube

The road trip car is a 1972 Waffle House-yellow Buick Skylark that owner Ben proudly refers to as “The Cruiser.” In fact, he’s so protective of his car that his anger is stirred when women get their cooties on it. As Ben says, they are touching everything in the world.

The Skylark is a convertible, which perfectly provides open room for multiple radio sing-along montages. However, despite frequently appearing in said montages, the car becomes more of a money pit than successful transportation. Its breakdown facilitates the need to sing karaoke for money, which reveals how somewhat-good Lucy (Spears) is at singing– something we all know was coming.

What doesn’t make sense is why no other high school graduate owns a car, including the rich girl, and thus they have to depend on ex-con Ben.

Kudos, though, for being one of the few road trip movies that involves stopping for gas just because it’s needed.

Our Crossroads Review

Is it a success? No. But, is it a disaster? Hardly.

Were it not for Spears’ reputation, this would be a forgettable film, only remembered by a handful of nostalgic fans.

Britney Spears, when surrounded by her now-popular co-stars, actually holds her own. Her acting skills actually surpass those of most singers-turned-actresses throughout the years. Aykroyd delivers one of his most heartfelt performances on screen, too. The script, penned by Shonda Rhimes (who went on to capitalize on edgy melodrama with Grey’s Anatomy, Private Practice, and Scandal), attempts to raise genuinely difficult subjects like pregnancy, abuse, date rape, and body weight images.

The underlying issue with Crossroads is that it isn’t sure of its audience. Obviously, this was made for Brittney’s fans, but who is Brittney’s audience at this time? Young girls looking for a virtuous role model? Sorry, this film undermined that. Teenage boys hoping for some eye candy? They get one underwear scene in the beginning and 80 minutes of estrogen. Adults seeking a realistic drama? Too bad the film is saturated with convoluted teenage emotions and fairy tale endings.

Crossroads review on stage singing

Although she’s too busy becoming valedictorian to have a life, Brittney’s character has enough time to solidify her abs.
Photo: Paramount Pictures; YouTube

That’s the second major issue: the convoluted and ultimately immature message delivered. Britney’s character pens “Not a Girl, Not Yet a Woman,” which includes the lyrics:

I’m not a girl,
Not yet a woman.

All I need is time,
A moment that is mine,
While I’m in between.

She, like many young female viewers who connected with this movie, yearns to be taken seriously as an adult while avoiding all the responsibilities it involves. Unfortunately, the completely improbable conclusion emphasizes that this halfway state is possible: one can live her life in a world without lasting consequences. Forget what your controlling parents say, or those sex-crazed men in your life.

The characters take rides with strangers, get drunk while underage, fool around sexually, talk back to their parents… and nothing ultimately damaging happens. That date rape pregnancy? Avoided via miscarriage.

While everyone alive would love for this to be possible, it’s not. A movie about finding oneself shouldn’t be just about getting what you want. It should be learning to live in the real world and coping with disappointment.

The only disappointment you’ll find in Crossroads is in having to watch it.