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Reviews: 'Crossroads,' 'Better Off Dead'

Video review: 'Crossroads'

Suspend the disbelief factor and you'll have a gay old time watching "Crossroads."  

(Entertainment Weekly) -- The fact that gyrating belly-barer Britney Spears stars as Lucy, a demure, premed-bound class valedictorian, is but one layer in the onion of implausibility that is ''Crossroads.'' Our Brit's also a cardigan-clad daddy's girl who says ''Y'all,'' who's as comfortable in her pop's auto-repair shop as in a seedy New Orleans karaoke bar.

But if you can suspend -- make that hang on a meat hook -- every last morsel of disbelief, you'll have a gay old time watching sweet Lucy, wrong-side-of-the-tracks Mimi (Taryn Manning), and prima donna Kit (Zo Saldana) embark on a cross-country road trip of self-discovery.

Driving them is hunky, mysterious Ben (Anson Mount), the token male in a pink-and-yellow gynocracy of lip gloss and giggles, who proves his healthy testosterone count with one-liners like ''No one drives the cruiser but me!'' (He's referring, of course, to his yellow 1973 Buick Skylark.)

Unlike Mariah Carey's superbly sloppy ''Glitter,'' ''Crossroads'' holds together as a blissfully innocuous teen dream, complete with a rockin' first sexual experience for little Lucy. When the movie attempts to deal with the more serious issues facing those who aren't girls, not yet women (namely, teen pregnancy), it teeters into glibness. But hey, you still get to see Britney pole-dance.

-- Missy Schwartz

Grade: B+

DVD review: 'Better Off Dead'

Don't let that theatrical release date put you off: ''Better Off Dead'' may have debuted in the heart of the Reagan era, but it would be unfair to lump this sweet high school romance in with its '80s movie brethren.

While most teen comedies of that decade dwelled on T&A gags and none-too-subtle class stereotypes -- resulting in a slew of box office hits that have aged about as well as a ''Where's the Beef?'' T-shirt -- ''Better Off Dead'' has the rare mix of heart and smarts to render it nearly timeless.

John Cusack is in full nice-nerd mode here, playing a high schooler gone suicidal after a breakup; salvation comes in the guise of a grounded foreign-exchange student (Diane Franklin), who bands with him against preppy elitists, a dollars-demanding delivery boy, and a pair of Howard Cosell-obsessed Japanese drag racers.

The digital edition has no behind-the-scenes extras, but the movie's quiet charm is so subtle that perhaps we're better off without them.

-- Brian M. Raftery

Grade: B

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