CrossoverReviewed By David Cornelius
Posted 09/01/06 00:06:37
In the world of underground streetball-style basketball, the first team to twenty-one points wins. Each basket is worth one point, until you get to nineteen points, and then the last basket is worth two points, giving you twenty-one points. Um… why not just play to twenty? Because really, that’s all you’re doing, people. Does twenty-one just sound cooler or something?Ah, but to ask a question like that after seeing a movie as embarrassingly awful as “Crossover” is a moot point, for who cares about the intricacies of streetball point systems when you have a major motion picture that fails to live up to even the lowest of expectations? Twenty-one points, schmenty-one points, here is a movie overflowing with amateurish acting, hackneyed writing, clumsy direction, and editing choices that would make a grown man cry.
And I don’t just mean the continuity errors, although those come in abundance. (Keep an eye out for Wayne Brady’s Magically Disappearing Dinner!) I’m talking about the awkward pacing that fills the entire picture, shifting us from mood to mood with the gracefulness of a drunk rhinoceros. I’m talking about the use of the exact same establishing shot of a mall’s entrance that’s used more times than I cared to count. I’m talking about the dependence on same three or four minutes of laughably bad musical score (courtesy composer Mathias Weber) that’s put on a repeat cycle, often to cover up bad audio, sometimes to help underline the melodramatics of a scene, always refusing to go away.
Editing alone is not to blame for making “Crossover” as unbelievably bad as it ultimately is. For starters, we must deal with a screenplay from Preston A. Whitmore II, who also directed the film (and who previously delivered the script for the unbearable actioner “Fled” and helmed the war flop “The Walking Dead” before being demoted to the world of direct-to-video). Whitmore’s writing here is the sort of terrible that must be heard to be believed; not only do we get such hackneyed chestnuts as “Yo, save it for the game!” (following an almost-fight before a basketball game), but we also get nuggets that refuse to make any sense at all. Consider: “If a man wants something he never had before, he got to do something he never done before.” Bad enough, and then it’s capped off by the speaker doing something he actually has done before to get what he never had before.
My brain hurts.
The whole movie is sprinkled with the most ridiculous dialogue this side of bad science fiction (“Great minds think alike.” “That’s where you’re wrong. Great minds think for themselves.” Deep, man. Deep.), but more chuckle-worthy is the script’s knack for sharp left turns in the middle of a scene. Two characters will be talking about college plans or some such, and then - wham! - the next line has something to do with a girlfriend, or a bet, or problems with Wayne Brady. And suddenly the music changes moods, and you’re wondering if Whitmore has ever heard of the word “transition.”
Often these mood swings are hilariously clumsy, because the swing goes so far. There’s no drama here, only melodrama. So everything everyone has to say is big and grand and very, very stupid. And sometimes, when an ordinary mood swing won’t do, Whitmore goes and throws us a whopper, tossing in a plot point he apparently forgot he wanted to mention earlier. Characters will be talking, and then - double wham!! - someone will mention, oh, yeah, she used to be the girlfriend of the bad guy, and if it sounds like we’re just throwing it in now without rhyme or reason, it’s because we are.
Whitmore’s direction, meanwhile, has not evolved from his B movie days; everything here looks ham-fisted and sloppy and good-enough-for-the-little-time-and-money-we-have. The actors (mostly a collection of newcomers and young stars who have yet to break through) trip all over Whitmore’s inept screenplay, concerned more with memorizing the lines than delivering them effectively. They’re boring to watch, although they don’t get to do much other than sleepwalk through the most trite, tired of stories.
Oh, have I not yet mentioned the plot? OK: Tech (Anthony Mackie) plays in a series of underground streetball games put on by nightclub owner/bookie/former sports agent Wayne Brady (Wayne Brady). Tech’s friend Cruise (Wesley Jonathan) wants to go to college in L.A. Cruise gets a basketball scholarship, but Wayne Brady wants to help him go straight to the pros instead. Cruise would rather be a doctor, so no thanks. Tech gets jealous of Cruise, who’s a better player and a smarter guy than he is. Tech and Cruise get girlfriends. There are two basketball games, plus some streetball hustling in the middle. Plus a motorcycle accident. The end.
If it seems like a mess, that’s because it is. This is a story with no focus - we ramble a bit on streetball, we ramble a bit on Tech getting his GED, we ramble a bit on girlfriend issues. The movie’s all of the place. Want to get into the details of underground streetball? Too bad; Whitmore only wants to use that as a limp framing device. Want to follow Tech’s journey to redemption by getting his GED? Too bad; Whitmore tosses the whole thing aside midway through the picture, resolving it with a one-off sentence and wondering what else can be ignored. “Crossover” plays like the first rough draft of a screenplay, with a third of its pages missing.
And then, ah yes, there is Wayne Brady. Wayne Brady is the villain of our tale, the slickster who attempts to lure Cruise away to big money, fame, and glory. He is the devil, tempting our hero. But he is also Wayne Brady. We cannot for a moment believe Wayne Brady, daytime talk show host and happy-go-lucky singing improv comic, to be a threat of any kind. Heck, Wayne Brady himself has lampooned his own squeaky-clean image (on a brilliant “Chappelle’s Show” skit that delivered an instantly quotable line questioning the possibility of injuring a prostitute). So what’s he doing here, acting all suave and sinister? He can’t pull it off, and we can’t buy it, and the whole thing plays as one very long joke.At least Wayne Brady’s appearance makes things interesting. Without him, “Crossover” plays out as a cliché-ridden clunker about two friends from the streets trying to make it big. With him, it becomes a fairly steady laugh riot, the kind of flop that honestly believes itself to be great stuff and is all the funnier for it. “Crossover” is not just awful, it’s gloriously, stupendously, magnificently awful. It is bumbling, incompetent filmmaking that somehow snuck its way into multiplexes. And best of all, it has Wayne Brady as the bad guy. Wow.
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