Picks and Pans Review: Crossroads

updated 03/31/1986 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 03/31/1986 AT 01:00 AM EST

You can tell what's wrong with Crossroads when you try to describe it to friends. Midway through a plot description, their eyes glaze over. That's a shame. Crossroads is such a well-intentioned film, you wish it were more substantial. At its best it's a musical drama that feasts upon the folklore of the blues, in this case pacts that musicians Robert Johnson and Willie Brown made with the devil at a Mississippi crossroads in the '30s. Fifty years later Joe Seneca, as Brown, and Ralph (The Karate Kid) Macchio, as his young white protégé, make an impromptu pilgrimage from New York City to that Mississippi site. As the title suggests, what matters more than the trip is the convenient metaphor: At this fabled intersection, rites of manhood are fulfilled. Macchio seeks the worldly experience that will let him master the blues, while Seneca seeks an absolution of his past. Debut screenwriter John Fusco and director Walter (48 HRS.) Hill have made the material accessible but not involving, despite some strong blues compositions by Ry Cooder. Macchio undercuts his blind enthusiasm with a street-smart delivery. In Seneca, Hill has found a picture-perfect actor. His whiskey voice, salt-and-pepper beard and seasoned countenance lend authority to the film. If only Crossroads didn't lead him and its audience to a dead end. (R)

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