September 7, 2006

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Crossover (PG-13)
Two friends use basketball to make their way in lower-income Detroit in Crossover, a movie that could be used as a way to buck up film students who get Cs or worse on their first projects. After all, kids, if this amateurish Afterschool Special could make it onto the big screen, anybody has a shot.

Tech (Andrew Mackie) and Noah (Wesley Jonathan) are buddies from way back. Tech, who recently served time for an assault charge, lives with a wrung-out mom and is often responsible for keeping the electricity on. Noah, a clean-cut kid who lives with his grandmother, is trying to walk the straight and narrow so he can keep his basketball scholarship to UCLA, where he plans to be a pre-med student. While Tech makes money on underground street-ball games, Noah plans to take his college career and go to medical school, not the pros. But he’s a good friend too, so even though it jeopardizes his student athlete status, he helps Tech out by playing in one of the street games (gee, wonder if that will come back to bite him in the ass?).

This brings Noah to the attention of Vaughn (Wayne Brady), the owner of the street basketball league and a former sports agent. He wants Noah to go pro now (so he can take a cut, naturally) and even goes so far as to tell Noah’s trashy girlfriend all about the pro possibilities so that she can manipulate the situation to Vaughn’s advantage.

With absolutely no grace or subtlety, the film also includes subplots about Vaughn’s desire to marry a girl who doesn’t want to give up her career in Los Angles, two girls (one dating Tech, the other dating Noah) who have upwardly mobile ambitions but differing morals as to how to achieve their goals, an ongoing argument about the lottery ticket of being a sports pro versus the long-term security of higher education and a rivalry between Tech and a flashy street baller named Jewelz (Philip Champion).

This movie isn’t just clumsy in its storytelling and its dialogue and full of weak, unskilled performances by its actors; it also features some of the worst camera work I’ve seen lately including several extended segments covering basketball games that are downright sleep-inducing. Writer-director Preston A. Whitmore has a few other movies on his résumé (though I’ve never heard of any of them) but this film has all the earmarks of a bad first film that never received any constructive criticism from a producer, editor or studio production team. Right down to its simplistically expressed “messages” (education is good, don’t drink or smack around your girlfriend) and the excessive establishing shots (we see the outside of a Detroit mall a dozen times), the movie feels sloppy and extremely low-rent. F

— Amy Diaz


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