Crossroads (PG)

Review by Jack Foley

THE best thing that can be said about Britney Spears's debut movie, Crossroads, is that you are unlikely to find a more laugh-out-loud comedy this year. The only problem is, it's not meant to be!

The pop starlet - yes, she of school uniform, 'Baby one more time!' fame - marks her none too anticipated big screen arrival with a truly inept coming of age tale which challenges the likes of Mariah Carey, All Saints and Vanilla Ice for most misjudged career choice.

Britney stars as Lucy, one of three childhood friends who embark on a road trip with a mysterious guitarist in search of their destinies, following their high school prom.

For Lucy, the trip marks the opportunity to meet her long-lost mother, while for her friends Kitt and Mimi (Zoe Saldana and Taryn Manning), it is the chance to catch up with a boyfriend and take part in a recording contest respectively.

The ensuing journey involves more singing, girl talk and self-revelation than you would think possible, made watchable only by the fact that you get to see Britney in various stages of undress at several stages throughout.

The movie opens with a totally gratuitous shot of our heroine singing along to Madonna's 'Open Your Heart' in only a bra top and pink Y-fronts (Like A Virgin would surely have been more appropriate!), and is swiftly followed by another long underwear sequence.

Thereafter, we get Britney in a bikini, Britney looking raunchy to woo a karaoke crowd, and Britney losing her virginity to the guy who, as she so innocently tells her father (Dan Aykroyd), 'gave us a ride'.

In between comes the serious stuff, involving revelations of rape, child abuse, under-age sex and teen pregnancy which all become trivialised in the time it takes the girls to form another group hug to get over it.

Worse still is the supposedly touching moment when shy Lucy reveals the content of one of her poems to be the lines from one of her most recent hits, 'I'm Not A Girl, Not Yet A Woman', which had viewers crying with laughter well into the next scene.

And when Britney is called upon to deliver her big scene, following a less than successful reunion with her mother, she conducts proceedings with her hand and her hair strategically placed over her face the whole time - evidence, if any were needed, that the singer is unable to project any emotion.

Crossroads is clearly intended to be a vanity project for the singer and should therefore appeal to her young fanbase, who have helped to turn her into the success that she is.

But if this movie is supposed to represent an artist at the crossroads of her career, let's pray she opts for the route furthest away from Hollywood in future. In videos, she's fine; but in movies, she's painful.