Crossroads: A Story of Forgiveness (2007) is the sort of film no one ever reviews honestly. It's saccharine bullshit is too well "justified" by the fact of it being a true story. Even more, it isn't honestly assessed because nearly anyone who could see through the ruse wouldn't last beyond the first fifteen minutes. Those who can get through it are the sorts of rubes eager to swallow the hook.
I don't quite know how I sat through it all, though I must say there was something mesmerizing, in a sickening sort of way, about the manner by which the film manipulates the viewer into the revival tent of phonies & collection plates.
Crossroads is a totally wussy "movie of the week" style film, about the evils of street-racing, married to an even wussier Christian Cable type of plea for forgiveness of kids who kill with their cars, complete with information on where to send your donation, as provided by all televangelical nonsense.
It all rings false as false as can be, despite that it's based on autobiographical christian-lecture-circuit cash-in-on-my-family's-tragedy commercial drivel. I'm a sucker for tearjerkers, but sheesh, I've got my limits, & my eyes were rolling instead of filling up with tears.
The cast is as tele-tepid as the the story. Dean "Ripley's Believe it or Not" Cain is the father suffering in the wake of his wife & daughter's death in a horrific car crash. Peri "Frazier's board operator Roz" Gilpan, who just couldn't be any more boring, is the attorney who acts like an amateur detective helping him solve what is just so not a mystery.
It does get a bit twisted when the grieving dad begins to neglect his remaining family, resulting in a justifiably angry teenage son (Landon Liboiron), in order to bond with the street racer (Shiloh Fernandez) who the grieving dad seems to like better than his own sons.
As it devolves into an increasingly churchy tale of family & healing, it just gets crappier & crappier, & ends with everyone transformed into the sorts of plastic saints who pretend to exist only among the self-aggrandizers on the christian lecture circuit.
This is lowly stuff even by Hallmark Hall of Fame's current standards. But then I'm of an age to remember when Hallmark movies included such fare as the Emmy Award winning Teacher, Teacher (1969).
It starred David McCallum as a school teacher whose ruined life as an alocholic finds redemption not in self-agrandizing grief, but in tutoring a retarded teenager. The kid was played by Billy Schulman who really was retarded.
Such pioneer casting (long before Chris Barker played Corky in the series Life Goes On caused criticism at the time, many believing NBC was exploiting a retarded boy. Ironically, the mentality of people who couldn't imagine Schulman capable of making a decision in his life was exactly the mentality the story strove to correct.
McCallum turned in a performance reminiscent of but predating Francois Truffaut's Dr. Itard, the tutor of The Wild Child (L'enfant sauvage, 1970), or even Anthony Hopkin's Dr. Treves in Elephant Man (1980), these embodying angst-ridden "am I a good man or a bad man?" queries.
Co-starring was the fantastic Ozzie Davis as a janitor deeply angered by racial injustices, but even more deeply concerned for the well-being of a struggling child, & unsure of the tutor's motivations.
This was the sort of teleplay that was a tearjerker, sure, & not devoid of contrivance. But it was a presentation that nevertheless demanded careful writing, fine acting, & unflinching honesty, to find its way to a place of human dignity & quiet heroism, in no way ruined by its message about the rights & capacity of the mentally retarded for fullfilling lives.
It's too bad today's Hallmark Hall of Fame so little values its own heritage, as such great things of their past appear to be lost. By losing touch with how it could be done, & has been done, they just no longer do it well. And there really is a powerful difference between moral family entertainment & churchy smarm.
copyright © by Paghat the Ratgirl