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October 01, 1999

'Drive Me Crazy'

Kirk Honeycutt
The Hollywood Reporter

DATELINE: "Drive Me Crazy" is a sweet but very slight teen comedy that despite its contempo look feels like a throwback to another era. The film should play well to young females, especially with Melissa Joan Hart

starting her fourth season in the title role of ABC's "Sabrina, the Teenage Witch" _ as the film's star. But "Drive Me Crazy" is definitely bucking a trend in teen movies, which these days either lean heavily on raunchiness ("American Pie") or mean-spiritedness ("Cruel Intentions").

Hart plays a high school senior, one of the campus elite, who is mortified when the star basketball player fails to ask her to the school's centennial celebration. Fast running out of acceptable candidates, she reluctantly decides to create her own date out of the grunge-loving boy next door.

Her neighbor (Adrian Grenier, who played the title role in festival hit "The Adventures of Sebastian Cole") only goes along with the scheme in hopes of making the girlfriend who just dumped him (Ali Larter) jealous.

But the sight of Grenier in a new haircut and with-it clothes perplexes his weirdo friends, who fear he has joined the "other" side. And, predictably, the two young people wind up liking each other more than they ever could have imagined.

Writer Rob Thomas, working from Todd Strasser's novel "How I Created My Perfect Prom Date," sprinkles the simple story with mildly amusing secondary characters, including Designated Dave (Mark Webber), so named because he's head of the drive-safe program; his video-geek pal (Kris Park); a coed (Keri Lynn Pratt) trying very hard to be popular; and a girlfriend of Hart's (Susan May Pratt) with her own malevolent agenda. The movie winds up with everyone learning a life lesson about the nature of true friendship.

The director is John Schultz, whose "Bandwagon" traveled the film festival circuit a couple of years ago. His work here is straightforward and uninspired. Similarly, technical credits are adequate if unexceptional.

One major plus is a soundtrack that includes the Backstreet Boys hit "I Want It That Way" and Britney Spears' "(You Drive Me) Crazy," the song that suggested the film's title.

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