- The Washington Times - Saturday, September 2, 2006

Common Sense Media, a nonprofit group dedicated to improving the entertainment lives of families, provides reviews of the latest movies from a parenting perspective. For more reviews, click on commonsensemedia.org.

‘Crossover’

Rating: PG-13 for sexual content and some language.

Common Sense Media: Pause. For ages 13 and older.

* (out of five stars)

Synopsis: Basketball players come of age in lame drama.

Running time: 95 minutes.

Common Sense note: Parents should know that the film includes frequent images of women in scant outfits. Sex scenes show kissing and people dressed in underwear, embracing. The film features some rough basketball (falls, bodies occasionally slamming into each other). The scam in the movie involves betting on basketball, fixing games and paying off players. A motorcycle crashes into a car, and the rider flies up into the air and ends up in the hospital (with scrapes on his face and a worried friend in the room).

Families can discuss the friendship between Tech and Noah: How does the fact that they feel they “owe” each other for past favors shape their current choices? How might the lack of parental or other authority figures influence their choices? How does the movie represent their girlfriends? Why are so many sports movies so similar?

Common Sense review: Though it’s full of powerhouse basketball scenes, “Crossover” is inept and emotionally unconvincing. The images zip and zap, the cuts are slamming, and the colors are extra bright. The real-life street-ball players — including Philip Champion — are impressive. Nevertheless, the slick surface can’t cover up the retread plot and mostly lackluster performances.

In this context, you might consider Wayne Brady, who plays an underhanded former sports agent named Vaughn, now rigging basketball games. He stages the games in an abandoned Detroit train station and provides his paid-off players with gorgeous red-and-gold uniforms and cheerleaders. As Vaughn’s disappointed girlfriend (Kristen Wilson) tells him, running underground games isn’t much of a career.

One of the players is reaching a similar conclusion. Though he’s making money and meeting pretty girls at the games, Tech (Anthony Mackie) is tiring of the routine. (He’s also working at a sporting goods store at the mall and gambling on street courts to make ends meet.)

He has aspirations to play professionally in Europe. (He knows he’s too short for the NBA.) His best friend since childhood, Noah Cruise (Wesley Jonathan), wants to go to medical school. A gifted ballplayer, Noah gets a basketball scholarship to a university in Los Angeles and brings his boy Tech along for the orientation.

Around the same time in this tediously contrived story line, the boys meet girls. Noah falls for supersexy Vanessa (Eva Pigford), while Tech likes the slightly more demure Eboni (Alecia Fears).

Wholly undeveloped and erratic, all these relationships — old and new — lurch from one dramatic confrontation to another without much motivation or sense. Indeed, most of the movie’s melodramatic content is indicated by the muddy, canned soundtrack — which is to say, only the games are compelling.

Sexual content: Women in skimpy clothes; sexy dancing in nightclubs; characters kissing passionately; implied sex.

Language alert: Profanity, sexual slang and other offensive words used.

Violence alert: Occasional arguments/bumps between players on the basketball court; a motorcycle accident leaves a character injured.

Commercialism alert: One player performs in a TV ad that resembles Nike or Gatorade ads.

Social-behavior alert: Cigar and cigarette smoking; champagne at a restaurant dinner; background drinking at parties/clubs.

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