Rated PG-13 - Running Time: 1:35 - Released 10/1/99

Melissa Joan Hart got her start on Nickelodeon as the 15-year-old star of Clarissa Explains It All. Next came Sabrina, The Teenage Witch, and that role has proven to be a goldmine. She has starred in several made-for-TV Sabrina movies, a Sabrina cartoon, and a Sabrina video game, even co-producing 1998's Sabrina Goes To Rome. But eventually teens grow up. Now 23 years old, Hart is showing clear signs of wanting to escape the teen genre — her brief part in Can't Hardly Wait was belittling enough, but her appearance in John Schultz's Drive Me Crazy could not be more phoned in. This is surprising, since this is her first starring role in a feature film, but perhaps Hart had something else in mind. Her lack of desire to play yet another cutesy high school girl is clearly evident. Can a 23 year old be burned out?

Drive Me Crazy is about a girl's desire to have the boy she loves take her to the high school's centennial celebration. Hart is Nicole Maris, who, along with a small committee, is in charge of the biggest event in the school's 100-year history. She wants Brad (Gabriel Carpenter), the basketball star, to take her, but he has recently fallen for a cheerleader. Meanwhile, her next-door neighbor, beatnik Chase Hammond (Adrian Grenier) has been dumped by his beatnik girlfriend Dulcie (Ali Larter, Varsity Blues). So the two, who have been mutually antagonistic quasi-friends since childhood, decide they will scam their respective love interests. In order for Nicole to snag Brad and Chase to win Dulcie back, Nicole and Chase will pretend to be lovers, thus creating jealousy in the other two. This way, even if the plan doesn't achieve its intended results, they will still have a date to the dance.

Of course, as the deception goes on, the two discover they care more about each other than the others, but neither wants to admit it. Meanwhile, Chase's friends (Mark Webber and Kris Park) make fun of him for dating a society geek like Nicole, and Nicole's friend (Susan May Pratt, 10 Things I Hate About You) makes fun of her for dating a loser like Chase. Also thrown in is Nicole's openly hostile relationship with her absent father (Stephen Collins) and Chase's own father (William Converse-Roberts) constantly suspecting him of using drugs.

Drive Me Crazy is director Schultz's sophomore effort, after 1996's Bandwagon; it is written by freshmen Todd Strasser and Rob Thomas. The inexperience shows. The film is poorly paced and there are digressions and plot twists that boggle the mind. There is no chemistry between Hart and Grenier; in fact, there is none between Hart and anyone. She seems detached, almost depressed throughout the film, and her lack of energy brings the whole flimsy structure crashing down. **

Copyright 1999 by John R. McEwen and The Republican

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