Crossover (PG-13) ★★

Review Date: September 1st, 2006

Despite a superb cast, Crossover dribbles slowly, with not nearly enough time on the basketball court.


The lawlessness of street basketball may be unknown to most audiences, but it's the backdrop for Crossover, telling the struggles of Detroit youth and how they yearn to break out into the mainstream world. Tech (Anthony Mackie) and his best friend Noah Cruise (Wesley Jonathan) are two extremely talented ball players who get pressured by a sleazy bookie and former sports agent (Wayne Brady) to go pro. Cruise wants to become a doctor, and his basketball skills are going to get him to pre-med at UCLA on a scholarship. His more hot-tempered and less ambitious pal Tech only wants to pass his high-school equivalency test and beat the local thugs at their game in the underground street match championship. But, before they head out to L.A. to pursue their dreams, they fall for two local girls (Alecia Jai Fears and Eva Pigford), which changes everything.


Mackie is one of the better actors around these days. He truly shines in the upcoming romance island drama Haven and is known as the guy who gets punched out by Morgan Freeman in Million Dollar Baby. But this over-the-top cliché-riddled You Got Served wannabe isn't his best showcase. He plays the role with exaggerated bravado. Also, Brady--who's known for his hilarious improv skills on the show Whose Line Is It Anyway?--isn’t at all funny as a creepy, self-interested hustler. Smaller vibrant cameos by Lil' J.J. and Philip ''Hot Sauce'' Champion as fellow players stand out, but unfortunately too short on screen time. And, as much as the seemingly likable Jonathan tries to make his character the multi-dimensional heart-tugging soul of the story, he lacks the chops to carry the movie. Mackie and Jonathan may have street cred as street basketball players, but their portrayals of inner-city youth don't have real-life cred.


Crossover is sure to have audiences shouting, ''Show me the basketball!'' But where is the dramatic footage of really good game playing, like in Glory Road, He Got Game or Coach Carter? Yes, there's the dramatic drop of the ball at midnight in an old train station where the lawless game takes place, but that’s not enough. The game is all about winning, and director Preston A. Whitmore II shows that well, but the story turns maudlin and the characters act like they’re performing in an overly earnest community theater that just tries too hard. And the whole “girlfriend” thing only proves to be a ridiculous diversion. It's a bad sign when a non-sports fan wants to see more b-ball instead of the unnecessarily heavy dramatic plot lines.

Bottom Line rated this film 2 stars.