[Note: I wrote this review while employed at Paramount Pictures.]

Britney Spears! In a return of the free Paramount screenings for employees after the post-9/11 moratorium (everybody's afraid the terrorists will bomb a movie studio, don't you know), I sat through this junk, hoping that it would at least be trashy enough to be a guilty pleasure. No such luck.

Crossroads is just another mechanical "follow your dream" movie that takes a win-win scenario – Britney Spears willing to dance around in her underwear – and squanders it on trite teen drama. The plot is about three high school girls – Britney, a token black girl (Zoe Saldana), and a pregnant hesher (Taryn Manning, who looks and talks like a young Holly Hunter) – who decide to take a road trip out to California, each with her own formulaic reason (Britney wants to find her long lost mom, etc.). A slightly older stud with a cool car inexplicably decides to drive them there. And by "inexplicably" I mean "he probably hopes to have sex with Britney".

Britney, of course, gets to sing. I had never paid attention to any of her songs before, but now having heard her gargle her way through a few of her hits (and even Joan Jett's "I Love Rock 'n' Roll"), I am stunned at how horrible her singing voice is. It reminds me of this little girl who used to live next door to me. She often liked to sing while playing in her front yard. But it wasn't the charmingly flat singing voice of a young child; it was the forced, phony, "grown-up" vibrato you'd get out of all the girls at the Annie auditions. It was creepy.

Also creepy is Britney's preternatural tan. Sure, she's cute, and she's got a great body, but her meager charms fade during Crossroads' 94 minutes. I'm sure it's been said before, but she really is like a living Barbie doll. Appropriately, I found a soullessness behind those droopy eyes of hers, a plastic insincerity whenever she flashed those pearly whites. There are millions of girls who could fill her shoes; her success seems purely arbitrary.