'Driving Me Crazy'

A low-octane ''Get Smart'' in a rusty ''L.A. Story'' frame, ''Driving Me Crazy'' is a dummkopf comedy starring German talk-show personality Thomas Gottschalk. While it's tough to knock a production that features the motion picture debut of Los Angeles Lakers center Vlade Divac, this one is a low-laugh emission that will sputter straight to the video shelf.

In this post-Berlin Wall yokker, Gottschalk stars as Gunther Schmitt, a small-town German inventor whose barn-built, Rube Goldberg-ish car defies the terms of ''German engineering.'' While it has the bulky build of the standard Eastern bloc brute, this contraption runs on vegetables, and when shifted into uberdrivecan peel out at 200 mph.

In short, it's just the car for Los Angeles, Gunther reasons. So, the intrepid inventor heads off for a big-time auto show to peddle his car for, hopefully, $50 million or so. While a veggie-propelled vehicle is just what the land of smog and nuts indeed needs, green Gunther soon runs into Southern California social reality -- namely, car theft. His grand invention is purloined by a Bel-Air lout (Dom DeLuise) who holds the car up for auction to the big-time carmakers.

There's no denying that this goofy assemblage has its charms -- dumb jokes, sight gags and plenty of turnips -- but, for the most part, it wipes out with an exhaustive trail of variety show-level bits and tired jabs at Southern California.

The melanges de genres cast -- Billy Dee Williams, Michelle Johnson, DeLuise, Morton Downey Jr. and George Christy -- is sporadically amusing but is generally waylaid by the screenwriters' (R.M. London, David Tausik, Jon Turtletaub) sludgy humor. In addition, director Turtletaub never seems to get out of first gear visually.

Tech contributions add some needed combustion, particularly Wolfgang Heinz' appropriately dopey production design and Michelle Kurpaska's fittingly garish costumes.


Motion Picture Corporation of America

Producers Brad Krevoy, Steve Stabler

Director Jon Turtletaub

Screenwriters R.M. London, David Tausik, Jon Turtletaub

Directors of photographyJeff Porter, Chris Faloona, Flavio Labiano

Editors Armen Minassian, Nancy Richardson

Costume designer Michelle Kurpaska

Production designer Wolfgang Heinz


Gunther Thomas Gottschalk

Max Billy Dee Williams

Ricki Michelle Johnson

Mr. B. Dom DeLuise

Yugo representative Vlade Divac

Hotel clerk Milton Berle

Bystander George Christy

Running time -- 87 minutes

MPAA Rating: PG

(c) The Hollywood Reporter

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