Moore, Spears try acting, fail miserably

Despite being void of any real meaning, the “Britney Movie” and the “Mandy Movie” are two numbingly pleasant ways to spend a few hours of your life. Britney’s movie debut in “Crossroads” has perhaps been more hotly anticipated, if anticipation can be gauged by how often the title of it is forgotten in lieu of simply calling it “The Britney Movie.” However, in the interest of fairness, this review will refer to both films in terms of their stars.

Every nuance of plot is contained in its title, a feat that would be amazing if its plot actually had nuances. High school graduation day, three friends reunite, road trip, self-discovery. Despite Britney’s remark at the end of the trip that it feels as though “like, a million years” have gone by, the time passes quite quickly, in a blur of glittery angst and bursts of song.

The movie’s biggest attraction is surprisingly not Britney’s chest. Instead, director Tamra Davis chooses to focus on her butt, with key pants including a pair of jeans, gray sweatpants and some very short shorts. Britney and her butt learn a lot about life in their weeks on the road, from the importance of friendship to the importance of trusting in oneself. Her friends, too, learn several key life lessons, including Women Don’t Need Men and Miscarriages Can Be Convenient.

Although the “Mandy Movie” – known publicly as “A Walk to Remember,” based on the Nicholas Sparks book – equals the “Britney Movie” in overall fluffiness, the creepiness of the plot gives it notably more staying power. As in the “Britney Movie,” the lead character is a virginal dork. However, while Britney’s character has sex and becomes a pop star, Mandy’s character gets married and dies. We’re dealing here with an entirely different vocabulary of clichés. Britney’s dialogue seems to have been taken directly from Seventeen, while Mandy’s is culled from a melding of born-again Christian literature and Harlequin romance novels.

Although Sparks’ book was set in the fifties, “A Walk to Remember” was transported to the nineties, and the movie thus has a strange anachronistic feel to it. The plot revolves around how Mandy’s love reforms a “bad” boy. Although within the context of the movie, the boy does seem bad, when placed into a normal high school, or even Britney’s high school, he’s just a regular guy. His vices are trying to be popular, drinking and sleeping with his girlfriend; in the range of high-school-movie sins, these don’t rank very high on the list. However, the movie’s spooky Manichean aura makes his actions seem veritably satanic, and Mandy’s reformation is duly miraculous.

But both movies deserve some credit for at least acknowledging that the prom is not the culminating event of every teenager’s life. Oddly, both Britney and Mandy live with their fathers (although, in keeping with the tones of the movies, Britney’s mother is living in Santa Fe, and Mandy’s is dead). Both seem to vaguely address issues of economic diversity (which, even more than racial diversity, tends to be missing from teen movies).

Which movie is better? Well, the answer will depend on what qualities you’re looking for in your teen pop-star movie. If you are a Williams student even considering seeing one of these films, chances are you want either to see skin or to show off your intellect by criticizing the entertainment of the masses. If it’s the first you’re after, then Britney is your best bet –Mandy spends most of the movie draped in yards of what look like flowered bedsheets (it’s a sign of her deep faith, or something). However, if you’re looking for a target upon which to practice your razor-sharp, Williams-honed elitism, then the Mandy movie is a better choice. Not only can you cast aspersions on Mandy’s inability to act and the movie’s blatant misreading of teen life, you can also deride its syrupy-sweet Christian element.

However, as both movies tend to fade quickly from one’s memory, it is best to do your criticizing while actually viewing each film. Since both of my screenings were, surprisingly, exclusive engagements (apparently, the citizenry of North Adams prefer “The Queen of the Damned”), I was able to do my research at the theater, but you might want to wait for the DVD.

But by all means, see the “Britney Movie.” See the “Mandy Movie,” too. Go with friends, go by yourself, go with a date. These are fun movies! Where else can you show off your skill at cultural criticism while also being hypnotized by a never-ending barrage of pretty colors and catchy music? Racial stereotypes! Implausible plot twists! Naïve religiosity! Objectification of women!

But one word of caution: make sure to retain your ironic distance. Concentrate on the movies’ tasteless groveling to mass culture, rather than on the fact that both movies are, in their own fluffy way, entertaining ways to spend a few hours. It can be difficult at times, but you have a duty to your education.

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