out of 4
All-Reviews.com Movie/Video Review
Review by Susan Granger
2½ stars out of 4
In this noirish crime drama/black comedy that uses decay as a
metaphor, Steve Martin plays a prosperous, placid Chicago dentist with Laura
Dern is his meticulous hygienist/fiancee. "A man can lose his soul. He can lose
his life. But the worst thing he can lose is his teeth," he says. His profitable
practice plunged into the underworld of narcotics corruption when, one evening,
a frazzled, unkempt Helena Bonham Carter appears, complaining of severe pain.
After a quick examination, he schedules an early morning root canal and
prescribes Demerol to get her through the night. When she skips her appointment,
it's obvious that she's a conniving junkie but, later, she returns for some
seductive drilling, fulfilling Martin's fantasy of having sex in the hydraulic
dental chair, something Dern won't do. Soon Martin is coping with his own
substance-abusing, neer-do-well brother (Elias Koteas) and arrested for the
death of Carter's hot-tempered, psychopathic sibling (Scott Caan), noting:
"Lying is like tooth decay: one small lie and everything unravels from there."
Writer David Atkins, a former rock 'n' roll drummer whose father and two
brothers are dentists, and co-writer Paul Felopulos drill implausible plot
cavities but Atkins's unpredictability impresses as does his use of x-rays as
punctuation points. Martin, who also played a dentist in "Little Shop of
Horrors," completely lost me when - in a bloody orgy of self-mutilation - he
starts to yank out his own teeth with pliers. But if you're into sinister
silliness, watch for uncredited Kevin Bacon as an actor researching a cop role
by hanging out with homicide detectives. On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10,
"Novocaine" numbs with a weird, quirky 6, although it obviously wants to be as
wickedly diverting as a whiff of nitrous oxide or "laughing gas."
Copyright © 2001 Susan Granger
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