DECEMBER 13, 2011

Romantic teen comedies packed 1999, especially ones involving make-overs and blending social groups. Freddie Prinze Jr. was making over Rachel Leigh Cooke (“She’s All That”). Heath Ledger was getting paid to take out Julia Stiles (“10 Things I Hate About You”). And Melissa Joan Hart was stealing a page out of that same book and making over her neighbor, Adrian Grenier, with a new leather jacket and a haircut in “Drive Me Crazy.”

As with most high school dramas, the film revolves around an impending dance (“Never Been Kissed,” “She’s All That”), in which Nicole (Hart) is supposed to be attending with the star basketball player. However, when he falls for someone else, Nicole is forced to look for a last-minute date replacement. At the same time, Chase (Grenier), Nicole’s longtime neighbor, has just been dumped by his activist girlfriend, Dulcie (Ali Larter). What transpires is the ultimate scheme of pretending to date to make their significant others jealous. What could go wrong?

“Drive Me Crazy” tends to suffer from being a run-of-the-mill, generic teen movie with the same old teenage problems and the same old storybook of tying loose ends. The same pieces are all present, including the jocks, the social outcasts, the preppies, and the sluts. However, these pieces are far more articulate than the average set of teenage comedy dwellers.

Why did the writers and directors of the late 90s constantly need to reproduce the same story? The film “Whatever It Takes” follows the same plot structure: neighbors banding together to get what they want but hopelessly falling for one another instead.

Melissa Joan Hart makes her theatrical feature film debut, taking her first steps away from the worlds of “Clarissa Explains It All” and “Sabrina the Teenage Witch” and proving that she can hold her own. Grounded by the fact that she can speak for herself, her performance rises above the average teen comedy. Long before “Entourage,” Adrian Grenier takes the second lead, continuing an already successful reign on the big screen. Grenier is perfect for his part, offering an alternative to the clean-and-cut Prinze Jr, Paul Walker, or Shane West.

Having seen this film several times during its rounds on cable when I was still a teen, the film has become a generational classic. It represents that particular time in our lives when Britney Spears was gaining worldwide popularity with her high school dance number song, “(You) Drive Me Crazy.” Though it will hardly outshine any of the films in its peer group, “Drive Me Crazy” is still a fond memory in a year of beating this genre to death.

October 1, 1999

John Schultz

Rob Thomas

“How I Created My Perfect Prom Date”
by Todd Strasser

20th Century Fox

(for teen alcohol and drug use, and for language)

91 minutes

Kees Van Oostrum

Greg Kendall

John Pace

Melissa Joan Hart
Adrian Grenier
Stephen Collins
Susan May Pratt
Mark Webber
Ali Larter
Keri Lynn Pratt

Amy Robinson

$8.5 million

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