"Crossover": Formulaic, manipulative, heartwarming — hey, foul!
Special to The Seattle Times
You can't blame "Crossover" for being comfortable with its own clichés. It's so blatantly formulaic that it actually grows on you if you don't dismiss it in the first five minutes. Through all of its barely rudimentary filmmaking, predictable plot elements, amateur acting (with a few appealing exceptions) and an ending that's obvious from the get-go, there's a beating heart in this movie that won't be denied.
It seems almost accidental that this street-basketball drama is worth watching at all (and by that I mean, marginally worth renting when the DVD is released any week now), but that's part of its modest appeal. Like the much better "Drumline" or the upcoming "Stomp the Yard" (which appears from previews to be exactly the same movie, with street dancing instead of street basketball), "Crossover" has a built-in audience that won't be disappointed, especially if you go in with low expectations.
Writer-director Preston Whitmore II turns a tight budget to his advantage by emphasizing lively dialogue between characters who are likable despite their cardboard familiarity. Cruise (Wesley Jonathan) has a promising future, with a scholarship to UCLA, a new fiancée (broadly played by "America's Top Model" winner Eva Pigford), and a firm determination to defy expectations and attend medical school instead of fast-tracking into professional basketball.
His best pal Tech (Anthony Mackie) faces a bigger challenge: He took an assault rap for Cruise, did some time, and is now struggling to earn his GED and a ticket to the pros. Both buddies face a tough rival on the court, somebody's gonna get hurt, and an unscrupulous street-ball promoter (comedian Wayne Brady, who should stick with stand-up) is fixing games against them.
The rest is purely by-the-numbers, just like Whitmore's modicum of talent. Still, many in the preview audience laughed and cheered as the movie progressed, and that counts for something.
Jeff Shannon: firstname.lastname@example.org
Copyright © 2006 The Seattle Times Company