This is admittedly a marginally better movie than the pop star vehicle that proceeded it, Glitter, or the one that came after it, From Justin To Kelly. Admittedly, the overwrought and terribly depressing melodrama this film provides as filler isn’t exactly pleasant to watch, but at least Crossroads improves upon a blank screen, to quote Roger Ebert’s famous criterion, which its two immediate peers arguably don’t.
That’s not to say it’s a good or entertaining movie—in fact, I would go so far as to say that it’s one of the ugliest, most unpleasant films I’ve ever seen. The characters are all utterly unlikable, from the three girls at the center of the story to Dan Ackroyd as Spears’ character’s controlling father to the petty, juvenile creep of a leading man.
Also, the plot is a go-nowhere, utterly pointless downer. Three teen girls who used to be friends but now hate each other go on a cross-country trip. The first girl (Spears herself) is looking for her long-lost mother (when she finds her, her mother says she was a ‘mistake’ that she was ‘forced’ not to abort); the second girl is pregnant from date-rape (she falls down a flight of stairs and has a miscarriage); the third girl wants to see her fiancée in L.A. (he turns out to be the rapist).
I think it was going for bittersweet uplift, but it doesn’t actually pull it off, so the attempt to pass the final scenes off as a happy ending comes across as hollow pretense. Combine this with a cast of obvious non-actors and a mediocre score with mediocre singing from Spears (the two principle numbers are the pretentiously adolescent ballad “I’m Not a Girl, Not Yet a Woman” and a hideous cover of Joan Jett’s “I Love Rock’N’Roll”), and you have one of the half-a-dozen worst musical movies of the decade.