Pop Star Crossroads and Catastrophes
By Collin Souter
Posted 02/13/02 11:56:01
(Includes reviews for A Walk To Remember, Hard To Hold and Disorderlies) As did the rest of America, I winced and reacted violently at the poster for the upcoming movie Crossroads. Why, oh why, did they have to make a movie starring Britney Spears? Haven’t we suffered enough? Apparently not. But when you think about it, it just might be the best idea for a movie in about six months. Back in September, Mariah Carey and Columbia TriStar released the semi-bio pic Glitter, in which Carey acted as a version of herself who becomes famous. Six months later, after the movie and subsequent album tanked, Sony paid Carey $47 million to tear up her contract and go away. Take another look at that Crossroads poster, people. This could finally do Miss Spears in.
Don’t believe me? I have ten good reasons why this movie could possibly sink a career or two. Now may be Miss Spears’ time to sink. With the release of Crossroads, she may have finally taken that step that most pop stars of her ilk take when the level of fame has hit its peak:
She made a movie!
To test the legitimacy of this theory, I decided to take a look at ten films that stand as the last remaining evidence of a pop star/group’s popularity. I watched all ten films in one week! If the prison officials in Cuba want to conduct a subtle form of torture on the detainees, I have a damn good idea on where to start. These movies are cinematic lethal
injections, rotting chicken remains for the soul; Satan’s worst practical jokes. And I fell victim to all ten, just barely getting out alive. All in the name of research.
But now, we have just enough titles to form a Top Ten list for this particular sub-genre of bad cinema. You can thank me later.
(In alphabetical order, with a “Montage Count” indicating how much music is used in order to sell a soundtrack. A scene of a band or artist performing a song without a cutaway does not constitute a montage.)
1. CAN’T STOP THE MUSIC (The Village People) Unless your name happens to be either Steve Dahl or Gary Meier, who did stop the music with their Chicago Disco Demolition in 1979. However successful their demonstration may have been, it still didn’t stop this disastrous and pitiful “movie” from being conceived. Relentlessly assaulting and torturous, the grammatically offensive Can’t Stop the Music rivals the Sgt. Pepper movie in the crème de la crap department. My feeling while watching it resembled the cop in Reservoir Dogs, with this movie playing the Michael Madsen role. Unfortunately, I didn’t have the luxury of having either of my ears cut off. But I thought about it. Oh, how I thought about it.
If the opening sequence of Steve Guttenberg roller-skating a little too merrily through New York doesn’t have craving some lesbian porno, nothing will. The storyline resembles most of these other movies, where semi-talented nobodys (in this case The Village People) are discovered one by one and they go on to become famous. The sitcom humor that dominates every scene falls way below standards of TV’s She’s the Sheriff. I’ve never wished a painful death on virtually every character in a movie the way I have with this one. While Can’t Stop the Music did successfully put a stop to the Village People, it would take an entire Decade of Absolute Darkness before we would see a Steve Guttenberg movie with his name way below the title.
Montage Count: 5 (Directed by Nancy Walker, her only film as director. Thank Christ almighty.)
2. COOL AS ICE (Vanilla Ice) Surreal, unwatchable and thoroughly confused, Cool As Ice stars a mentally challenged suburban white idiot with a Pink Floyd album cover sketched into his hair. A sort of Rebel Without A Cause story with traces of The Graduate (fish symbolism for the character who just graduated high school), this ruthlessly painful movie could kill a thousand armies, let alone a thousand careers. It tells the “story” of a bunch of guys who sit around listening to inane hip-hop while cruising around on brightly colored motorcycles and picking up boring grad chicks.
If nothing else, Cool As Ice does give us the pleasure of watching Vanilla Ice get punched in the stomach in the first 15 minutes, but it takes forever to get there. Oh, what I would give to have that piece of footage on a screensaver. But the strangest aspect of this cinematic kamikaze mission is that it doesn’t seem to have been written or directed by anyone. It seems to have just sort of, I don’t know, happened! How can a creator of any kind let anyone get away with the line, “Lose the zero and get with the hero”? And what about the big black winter hat Vanilla wears at the end? To me, it screams volumes about the depth to which Vanilla Ice sank in order to achieve his stature as a black white guy: He didn’t just want to be black. He wanted to be Kid and Play.
Montage Count: 9 (Directed by David “Inspector Gadget” Kellogg)
3. DISORDERLIES (Fat Boys) A movie with a profound and urgent message about the world in which we live, a message of hope, understanding and strength. A message we all need at this point in time: Hey look, everybody! Fat guys!
How fat are they?
So fat, there’s no room for mise-en-scene! Hey, I didn’t make the movie, people, I just make fun of them. The movie sets up its “story” with one line of dialogue from the villain who hopes to have his father killed so that he may inherit his riches: “What I need are the worst orderlies in the history of nursing care.” Hey look, everybody! Fat guys!
Perhaps the most alarming aspect of Disorderlies, aside from the fact that several people felt it had to be made in the first place, is the reverse sexual discrimination that takes place between the cute thin nurse and Fat Boy # 2. In order for him to win her heart, he has to lose 7,000 pounds. Also, what the movie lacks in moral fiber, it makes up for in wacky sound effects, approximately 6.3 sound effects per sight gag. Nyuk, nyuk, nyuk!
Montage Count: 4 (Directed by Michael “Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band” Schultz)
4. GLITTER (Mariah Carey) Mariah, who bares a striking resemblance to Ms. Potato Head in this film, checked herself into the hospital for exhaustion weeks before this movie hit the streets (on September 14, 2001, when no one was looking). Perhaps she caught a glimpse of her expressionless daze on the big screen and went into a panic. Not a bad ploy to try and squeeze some sympathy from the honest and unmerciful critics who would later advise her to take acting lessons from Madonna’s Shanghai Surprise. Aside from the always-reliable quote whore Kevin Thomas of the Los Angeles Times, not a tear was shed for poor ole Mariah.
A movie supposedly based on Mariah’s uninteresting life, Glitter could just as easily have been a made-for-VH-1 movie, and that may be the biggest insult I can bestow upon it. It also stars the grating and greasy-faced Max Beesley as her manager/boyfriend, in a performance extracted from various methods of acting ranging from Vanilla Ice to the very worst of Mark Hamill. Although it brought her career to a screeching halt, she did take home a nice paycheck at the end of the day. Supposedly, Mariah had another movie in the works. I’m thinking straight-to-late-night-cable this time. How ‘bout you?
Montage Count: 4 (Directed by Vondie “Gridlock’d” Curtis-Hall)
5. HARD TO HOLD (Rick Springfield) A movie of sublime awfulness, Hard To Hold tells the story of the world’s worst pop star, Jamie, played with methodical madness by Rick Springfield. Springfield got so into his role, he actually played the part of a pop star in real life for about four years. It didn’t pay off. His sad-sack puppy-dog puss makes
the viewer squirm when put in a close-up. The entire movie’s success depends on Springfield, the actor, saying the line “Tony Bennett” convincingly and confidently. Simply memorizing the line isn’t enough. But Springfield just doesn’t have the chops necessary to deliver and sell the pivotal line “Tony Bennett” and, thus, the movie loses its grip (not that it had a grip before the earth-shattering line “Tony Bennett,” but you see what I mean).
The movie tells the story of this sap trying to fall in love with a “real” woman. You know, the kind that has a job. When he asks her why she doesn’t like his music, she replies, “Because it’s bubble-gum!”
“Well, most of America seems to disagree with you,” he says.
“Bully for them!”
Yeah, that’s…telling them…I think. Throughout the entire movie, Janet Eilber, who plays the victim of Jamie’s lethally cute obsessions, struggles with her own dialogue as she tries with all of her might to look Springfield in the eyes and say, “I really, really care about you.” I secretly love this movie. I could go on and on about it, from the typically drunk father to the endless Italian stereotypes, from the weight of the line “Doesn’t it embarrass you bringing all that attention to yourself” to the questionable casting of the perpetually unkempt Peter Van Norden, pre-Police Academy 2.
Montage Count: 7 (Directed by Larry “Wired” Peerce)
6. LIGHT OF DAY (Joan Jett) The first of two oddballs on this list, Light Of Day stands out from the rest simply because, well, it’s not that bad. In this movie, a woefully mis-cast Michael J. Fox and Joan Jett play Colt 45-swigging brother and sister in a flavorless bar band called Barbusters. It’s a “hot poo” rock band, hence the PG-13 rating, with Jett as lead singer, Fox as guitarist and back-up and Michael (Spinal Tap) McKean on bass. They have a drummer, but you know the rule about drummers: No one cares. And no one should care about this band, since they reside in Cleveland, steal from tool sheds and play the kind of music only a drunken Eric Roberts and Michael Pare would be into. Besides, Jett drowns out the entire band!
Can Jett act? As long as she has no dialogue, she does okay. But who can help but snicker when she waxes philosophic about metal riffs? The movie starts out as a blue-collar rock fable where “music is the only thing that matters,” then segues into a Disease-of-the-Week melodrama that became a staple of 80s network television. Turns out the siblings’ mother (Gena Rowlands) not only has a dishwasher phobia (don't ask), but also has cancer. Not only did this movie silence the career of Jett for a long while, but it also dragged the Fabulous Thunderbirds down into pop culture oblivion.
Montage Count: 4 (Directed by Paul Schrader, in a rare slump)
7. SGT. PEPPERS LONELY HEARTS CLUB BAND (The Bee-Gees, Peter Frampton) I have friends who tell me that the intensity of the last 20 minutes of Darren Aranofsky’s Requiem For A Dream almost killed them. Many viewers feel suicidal after sitting through the grueling despair of Mike Figgis’ Leaving Las Vegas. Heck, Vietnam veterans even felt post-traumatic stress flashbacks during Oliver Stone’s harrowing Platoon. To them, I say…
CHILDS PLAY! Leisurely strolls! Romper Room picnics in flowerbeds hosted by editors of Cat Fancy!
I’ve seen horror, my friends. I’ve been through hell and back. I sat through all 112 minutes of Universal Pictures’ Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band. Now, I’m here to tell you about it, to share with you the pain, suffering and anguish for which I hold the Bee-Gees and Peter Frampton personally responsible. I cannot forgive these people. I will not forgive them. The masterminds behind this unthinkable plot—Henry Edwards, Robert Stigwood and Michael Schultz—should be tried for culture crimes against humanity. The list of offenses runs endlessly…
1. Bee-Gees and Peter Frampton singing Beatles songs.
2. George Burns singing “Fixing a Hole.”
3. Steve Martin, one of the few to get away unscathed, mugging his way through
“Maxwell’s Silver Hammer.”
4. The racist Aunt Jamima-looking robots singing a disco version of “Mean Mr. Mustard.”
5. Aerosmith, to this day, still covering “Come Together” this late in their career.
There actually exists one offense for every frame of film shot, but we just don’t have the paper to spare. It will be my mission to have Amnesty International and Greenpeace invade every video store in the country to seize copies of this film in the interest of humanity’s greater good.
Montage Count: This entire strip of merciless bile is one big montage!
(Directed by the aforementioned Michael “Disorderlies” Schultz)
8. SPICE WORLD (Spice Girls) Perhaps the most refreshingly self-aware title of the bunch, Spice World actually contains a scene of truth and beauty: At one point, all five rich and famous Spice Girls contemplate where they will be four years from now. They know as well as we do that the party will be over and they will most likely wind up fat, drunk and pathetic. They pretty much hit the nail right on the head, but even with that one scene, Spice World remains a hard day’s night for anyone who has to sit through it.
The emptiness of the band’s music rivals that of the film in which they star. There exists an audible train wreck every time someone attempts a joke. I thought even Roger Moore had standards, but once again he proved me wrong. Richard E. Grant used the “I’m doing it for my kids” excuse that most actors like to try. My girlfriend got her revenge on me after I screened for her a certain Sam Raimi masterpiece. She hated it and decided it would be best to make me sit through this, which she claims to love. I guess I can chalk this one up to being the Evil Dead II for Anglophiles. But that don’t make it Groovy!
Montage Count: 4, but it contains many performance numbers.
(Directed by Bob “That Darn Cat” Spiers)
9. VIBES (Cyndi Lauper) The second of two oddballs, simply because it has no rock/disco music in it whatsoever. Instead, it falls into the category of “straight” comedy. But that doesn’t make it any less awful. If anything, it hurts the movie. The editors don’t even attempt to condense time. No montage sequences! We actually have to watch everything. And, really, who wants to watch Cyndi Lauper for 99 minutes? I’m guessing an executive somewhere probably had a 2-minute cocktail conversation with her, found her grating, childlike New Yawk banter charming and decided to expand the discussion to feature-length proportions.
She and Jeff Goldblum play psychics sent to Ecuador to recover something, or maybe just to do all of America a favor. I don’t remember. I do remember the chemistry between these two being as potent as Diet R/C mixed with Vaseline and stale beets. One must gag on it in order to consume it. Here’s an example of the kind of jokes the writers ask us to put up with:
Villain: “Have you ever handled a machine gun?”
Goldblum: “Yes, in high school I was captain of the machine gun team.”
And it pretty much goes on like that. Comedy so bad, it had me longing for the Rick Springfield movie, and NOBODY SHOULD EVER HAVE TO MISS RICK SPRINGFIELD FOR ANY REASON WHATSOEVER! With hair resembling a Troll doll, Lauper takes mugging to an extreme that would make Eddie Deezen wince. Lauper has kindly stayed away from celluloid ever since.
Montage Count: 0, which is really unfair to the viewer.
(Directed by Ken “Vibes” Kwapis)
10. A WALK TO REMEMBER (Mandy Moore) Call this one Foot Story, part Footloose, part Love Story. In the third act, the makers of the movie felt it would be best if Mandy Moore dies at the end, so as to separate her movie from Cool As Ice. They pretty much share the same plot, otherwise. Bad high school kid, played by the impeccably range-less Shane West, falls in love with a sweater fetishist who “teaches him everything about life,” which basically involves starring in a terrible school play written by a Freshman.
I don’t remember any specific “walks” in this movie, but I do remember lots and lots of stale cheese and indigestible corn. That may have been from the big bag of Oke-doke’s I brought into the theater with me, or it may have been from trying to digest the dialogue spoken by the suspiciously innocent Mandy Moore. Trying not to laugh out loud after the line, “I don’t need another reason to be angry at God” may have been the
biggest challenge of this entire week-long ordeal, that and trying to find a person who has actually heard of Mandy Moore. True, it may be too soon to tell if this did any damage and Miss Moore may be too young to know any better…but those of us in the theater know what we saw, and we laughed our heads off!
Montage Count: 7
Directed by Adam “The Wedding Planner” Shankman
I feel I must warn people about the dangers of trying to sit through one or more of the aforementioned titles. I don’t recommend it, not even out of curiosity. What I did was foolish, idiotic and irresponsible. Even the folks on MTV’s Jack Ass wouldn’t go as far as I did for my research. I almost didn’t make it. My spirit almost broke. Often, my eyes would shift from the television to the revolver sitting on the milk crate beside me. I didn’t drink, smoke, fast-forward or blink. But I cried in pain endlessly. And I did it so you wouldn’t have to. Stick with the greats: Gimme Shelter, Stop Making Sense and Meeting People Is Easy. Heck, even a half-hour of U2: Rattle and Hum would be healthier.
True, I haven’t yet seen Crossroads and, yes, there have been musical artists who make successful transitions to the silver screen. Bjork gave the best performance of 2000 in Dancer In The Dark and Macy Gray had a great scene in the Denzel Washington thriller Training Day. David Byrne, John Cougar Melencamp, and Perry Ferrel have directed themselves in movies that ended up being, for the most part, decent. But when a pop star fails at it, they fail hard!
The examples given above have to do with real artists, those who put themselves on the line and actually have something interesting to say with their music. Britney Spears does not fall into that category, not by a long shot. She falls into the category of Corporate Entity, a soulless package of recycled tracks, a Barbie doll/whore image and empty values. The Corporations put her out there so unsuspecting teenagers will have something on which to spend their money and so Bob Dole will get his Viagra money’s worth.
God bless the geniuses at Paramount Pictures who gave Crossroads the greenlight. Hopefully the plan to rid the free world of Miss Spears will work. It worked for Mariah Carey and it might work for Mandy Moore, although whenever I mention Mandy Moore to people, they always reply, “Who’s Mandy Moore?” You know what? I have no idea. I couldn’t tell you a single Mandy Moore song if I tried, so she might get away unharmed with her film. But I can tell you a couple Britney Spears song titles as well as a song title for almost all ten artists who attempted to make the jump, brought their career to a crossroads, and ended up going south to Oblivion.