by Eric D. Snider
Released: September 1, 2006
Full disclosure: I did not see the last 15 minutes of "Crossover." A problem with the projector caused the print to melt, and the damage was so extensive it couldn't be repaired in a timely manner.
Now, it's possible the last 15 minutes are full of nuanced acting, logical storytelling and restrained, mature directorial tactics. But it's unlikely. This is one of the goofiest, most melodramatic, most unintentionally funny movies I've seen in a while. I suspect the print melting was the result of the projector committing suicide.
Written and directed by Preston A. Whitmore II in his first major feature film, "Crossover" is the story of two Detroit teens who just want to play basketball. One of them, Tech (Anthony Mackie), spent his senior year of high school in juvie and is now studying for the GED. The other, Cruise (Wesley Jonathan), has always been a good kid (OR HAS HE???????) and now has a scholarship to "California University of Los Angeles," or CULA, not to be confused with UCLA.
Tech plays regularly on a streetball team in a highly organized streetball league, with uniforms, cheerleaders, illegal betting and everything. A shady nightclub owner named Vaughn (Wayne Brady) has the games fixed, I think, and pays all the players. The ones on the winning team get more, from what I gather. The film is not terribly clear on how the whole system works. But I know that by participating in one of the games, Cruise jeopardizes his eligibility and his scholarship.
In the meantime, though, the two pals acquire girlfriends, Vanessa (Eva Pigford) for Cruise and Eboni (Alecia Fears) for Tech. They're all African-American, but Eboni has blond hair, which was a poor choice on her part. As for Vanessa, to quote Kanye West, I ain't sayin' she a golddigger, but....
The four go to L.A. for Cruise's "orientation" at CULA, though I think real colleges have their orientation immediately prior to the start of classes, not weeks in advance. It's more of a tour, really, but Cruise keeps calling it orientation, bless his heart. [Since writing this, I've heard from a few readers who say many colleges do hold their orientations weeks before schools starts. None of the colleges I'm familiar with do it that way, and it makes no sense, but I'll take the readers' word for it that that's how it is in some cases.] Anyway, while they're in town, Tech somehow gets a gig in an athletic-shoe commercial, only to turn angry when he learns he's just the real star's body double. Thus begins Tech's descent into general surliness, evoking a confrontation with Cruise and the girlfriends.
The entire film is just so over-the-top, feeling more like an After School Special than a serious inner-city drama. You know the stories where someone is illiterate? Watch for the uncomfortable and hilarious scene in this movie where it's revealed that Tech can't add. As in, numbers. Can't add 'em. Hilarious.
The flat acting on all counts doesn't help, either. Wayne Brady, not believable as a bad guy in the first place, couldn't be less menacing as Vaughn if he were wearing a kitten costume. Wesley Jonathan and Anthony Mackie, meanwhile, as Cruise and Tech, seem like nice enough kids but just have no charisma as actors. Everything is spoken in a dull monotone, except when it's being yelled histrionically.
A friend who saw the whole movie filled me in on the details of the last few minutes, and yeah, no surprises. Whitmore may have promise as a director (provided he reins in his fondness for excessive cuts and zooms), as some of his shot compositions are eye-catching. He'll need better material, though. This kind of generic teen drama is strictly amateur.
Rated PG-13, scattered profanity, a little mild sexuality
1 hr., 35 min.
Copyright © Eric D. Snider.
This work may not be transmitted via the Internet, nor reproduced in any other way, without written consent from Eric D. Snider.