PROBLEM: Two singing sensations are ready to make the leap from pop princess to silver screen starlet. However, the project choice is crucial. The right role could be sweet as candy and open up doors to a whole new career, the wrong one could be toxic and only open doors that lead right back into the recording studio.
CASE STUDIES: Britney Spears and Mandy Moore
When Britney Spears burst on the pop music scene in 1998, her instant success had every record label in town scrambling to sign their own teen queen. Many of these hopefuls came and went without leaving much of an impression, but a few managed to click with audiences of their own. One such performer was Mandy Moore. By 2001, Spears and Moore had both racked up multi-platinum record sales (or rather, in Spears’ case, multi-multi-MULTI-multi-platinum) and each had the burgeoning fan bases to prove they weren’t just flash-in-the-pan successes. It was no surprise then when it was announced that both singers would be headlining movies the following year. Neither girl was hardly a stranger to acting (two seasons of The New Mickey Mouse Club and a stint on Broadway for Spears and a supporting turn in 2001’s The Princess Diaries for Moore), but this would be the first time each would be carrying a major motion picture. So what types of films would be chosen to herald their hopefully breakout performances?
SOLUTION: Target that fan base – it’s (teen) chick-flick time!
The choice was wisely made in both camps to find films that would resonate with their core audience – teen girls. Figuring that out was the easy part. Executing it was a little more difficult.
Unfortunately for Spears, it seemed that everyone involved with her film debut figured that once they had a poster with “Britney Spears” above the title they could call it a day. And while that may have gotten people into the theatres to see Crossroads, it didn’t do them any favours once they were in their seats. A dull, vapid coming-of-age road trip film (a quick scan of the film’s review synopses on Metacritic show a high prominence of the word “lame”) with a star devoid of any of the exuberance she normally demonstrates on stage didn’t exactly convert anyone to the “Britney Spears – ACTRESS” camp. In fact, Spears spends her time on-screen pretty much looking and acting just like how I’d imagine her on a typical tour rehearsal day – singin’ a few songs, trying on various midriff-baring outfits, carrying on half-hearted conversations – all the while looking like she’s thinking “Dang, y’all – I really need to go on a Cheetos run. Are we done with this boring stuff yet?”
Thankfully Moore fared a bit better, since some apparent thought went into finding her a proper vehicle. Her film was A Walk To Remember – a sweet, heartbreaking teen romance based a well-loved Nicholas Sparks novel. And while it was squarely aimed at her teen girl fan base, the Mandy Moore on-screen was different from the one they knew. Playing a shy, plain girl with brunette locks was a far cry from the bubbly, blond, MTV-ready Moore that audiences were used to, but her charm and chemistry with costar Shane West still managed to successfully pluck at their little heartstrings. Not all critics were on board with the film (admittedly, it does get a little schmaltzy), but it nonetheless showed them and other viewers that Moore was at least serious about acting and her earnest performance showed she was willing to get invested in a role and try things outside her comfort zone.
RESULTS: Well, if you caught my sly lyric references in the beginning of this post, you may know where this is headed.
The films, which both had similar production budgets of around $12 million, also had similar (moderate) box office success. Domestically, Crossroads pulled in $37 million while A Walk To Remember netted $41 million*. But audience attendance and audience reaction are two different things, and in that respect, Remember has walked all over Crossroads. The imdb.com pages for these films show that Crossroads has a cringe-worthy average user rating of 3/10 while A Walk To Remember is nestled nicely at 7.2/10.
It’s no shocker then that Crossroads is (so far) the one-and-done for the silver screen adventures of Britney Spears and she’s since focused on what she does best – churning out hit music. On the other hand, Mandy Moore has seen her singing career take a backseat to her ever-growing acting career a number of times since A Walk to Remember first resonated with movie-goers. In the past 10 years she has managed to carve out a consistent and respectable acting career for herself, appearing in such films as How to Deal, Chasing Liberty, Saved! and Because I Said So as well as providing the voice of Rapunzel in Disney’s 2010 blockbuster, Tangled.
*(source: Box Office Mojo)