A less chaotic state: 2002’s Crossroads

Journey back to 2002, when Brittney Spears was an important person, thought of as attractive and talented and not at all crazy.

That’s not fair. In her day, Spears was one of the hardest working pop stars in the world. By age 19, she’d already released “Hit me Baby One More Time” and “Oops, I Did it Again.” Forbes ranked her the world’s most powerful celebrity in 2002 as well as the world’s highest paid woman, a distinction she received again as recently as 2012.

But 2002 was, indeed, the height of her fame. Direct competitor Mariah Carey had just released Glitter, widely reviled as one of the worst movies ever made, in an attempt to revive her career. It was a bomb, but the obvious next step was to star a pop star whose career didn’t need reviving. And who’s career was more alive than Spears’?

Pictured: trying too hard. Photo courtesy Paramount Pictures.

And so, Crossroads was born.

The movie stars Spears as Lucy Wagner, a self-hating bookworm with mommy issues; opposite Zoe Saldana as Kit, a rich bitch with a perfect life; and Taryn Manning as Mimi, a pregnant teen with an awful life. The trio were inseparable in their childhood, but had grown apart throughout high school. Through various disappointments, they end up digging up an old time capsule — you remember, those awful things they made us make in elementary school where we write down goals and dreams that will either be hilariously different when we’re just a few years older or sardonically unobtainable at that point. Realizing none of them are happy with their lives, they decide to drive across the country to California to knock out some of their old goals and “find themselves” with this guy Mimi met (Anson Mount).

Why re-watch it?

It’s not a classic, nor is it a cult classic that’s so bad you just want to watch it over and over and laugh at how awful it is. Movies like Monty Python and the Holy Grail and Plan 9 from Outer Space still have things that are subtly well-done about them. Plan 9 is mocked for its idiotic characters, not its poor structure, and even in that film, characters’ idiocy isn’t what drives the plot.

Crossroads is structured as a typical road movie, but the audience is asked to accept some pretty outlandish hijinks. The film’s main conflict arises when all of the main characters literally forget to bring money on their trip with them. In terms of story structure problems, this conflict is resolved less than halfway through the runtime. This can be partially explained by the movie aiming high — it’s trying to resolve and explore multiple threads with multiple characters, and that’s a hard thing to tie into a neat little bow. But it’s hard to give this movie the benefit of the doubt.

Still, there are a couple of good bits —

“I have a nice voice,” Mimi says, with a distinct lisp.

“Can I make a phone call, please?” Wagner asks into a pay phone she has yet to activate.

Viewers will recognize the hospital in a later scene as North Hollywood Medical Center, which Scrubs would ruin as a set for other productions because all you can see down that ramp is Zach Braff crowd surfing.

What’s its relevance today?

Well, it was Saldana’s first headliner role. Eight years later, she became someone significant… Yeah. that’s pretty much the sum of it.

Despite its commercial success, pop stars have stayed away from genuine acting since then. Recently, pop acts like the Katy Perry and Justin Bieber have taken to live concert/documentary movies, which are probably much easier since the stars don’t leave their elements and it’s almost all profit, since they’d be touring anyway. Maybe Crossroads helped prevent more awful, pop-star-centric movies? Glitter should probably get more credit for that.

Joshua Knopp is a formerly professional film critic, licensed massage therapist, journalism and film student at the University of North Texas and news editor for the NT Daily. If there’s a movie you’d like to revisit, shoot me a suggestion at reelentropy@gmail.com.

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