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Drive Me Crazy

Review by Gregory Avery
Posted 1 October 1999

Directed by John Schultz.

Starring Melissa Joan Hart, 
Adrian Grenier, Gabriel Carpenter, 
Ali Lartner, Keri Lynn Pratt, 
Mark Webber, Faye Grant 
and Stephen Collins.  

Written by Rob Thomas,
from the novel 
How I Created My Perfect Prom Date
 by Todd Strasser.

That snoring you hear is Drive Me Crazy, the Melissa Joan Hart vehicle which crept into theaters this last weekend, on little cats' feet, found a place to curl-up, and went into a snooze.

Hart, star of the TV sitcom Sabrina, and Adrian Grenier play Nicole and Chase, childhood friends who still live next door to each other but have drifted apart in their teenage years into different social groups: she's with the shiny, peppy "in" people, he's with what he himself terms "disaffected youth", hanging out in a club called the Pit and listening to loud rock music from an all-girl band called the Electrocutes. Prom time looms, and when Nicole looks like she'll have trouble getting a date from a tall, blond thing with broad shoulders (Gabriel Carpenter) who plays on the school basketball team, she turns to her old friend Chase for help, ridding him of his moptop hair and fashionably-disheveled clothing style in the process.

One of the problems with the film is that, when one of Chase's old friends criticizes him for looking like a walking ad for the Gap, it doesn't seem to make any difference, because all the kids in the film, no matter what social group they're in, have the same fresh-scrubbed look to them. (The picture was made in Ogden, Utah, with the mighty Wasatch looming in the background, which may have something to do with it.) Trying to avoid being strident or crass, the filmmakers tone down the material to the point where it goes slack: large amounts of dead air seem to exist in the picture, even though people are moving about and talking on-screen.

Hart, who, with her blond flip-curl hairstyle and turned-up nose, looks like a junior Meg Ryan (or Samantha Stephens, for that long-rumored big-screen adaptation of Bewitched), tries for an offhand style of humor, letting her quips drop into scenes and fall like dying swans. She looks like she knew the picture wasn't turning out as everyone expected it would, and, maybe, that she wasn't getting any chemistry going in her scenes with Adrian Grenier, who has big almond eyes, big cushy lips, and is otherwise thoroughly undistinguished. He does briefly spark to life in a couple of scenes with Keri Lynn Pratt, who has a beautifully bright screen presence and sweet smile; Pratt, in a secondary role, lights up every scene she's in. As "Designated Dave", the kid who's always expected to drive his friends home from parties but never gets to have any fun himself, Mark Webber also puts in some good screen work.

Amy Robinson, who produced this picture, co-produced some of the best pictures of the Eighties with Griffin Dunne. While she and the filmmakers were trying for a different type of teenage picture, here, they inadvertently fell into the shadow of two other pictures that came out ahead of them, this year. The prom stuff in Drive Me Crazy looks like it's from She's All That, while the makeover business is similar to 10 Things I Hate About You; the former had the dazzling Rachel Leigh Cook as one of its leads, while the latter was generally more spirited, and funnier, in comparison. (So funny, I mixed up Jared Leto with Jeremy Sisto in my review.) That may not entirely account for the air of despondency that hangs over Drive Me Crazy, like gardenias left behind by someone in a room, or rowboat passengers bailing out a leaky boat in the middle of a lake.

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