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movie reviewmovie review out of 4 Movie Review: Novocaine

Starring: Steve Martin, Helena Bonham Carter
Director: David Atkins
Rated: R
RunTime: 95 Minutes
Release Date: November 2001
Genres: Comedy, Suspense

*Also starring: Elias Koteas, Laura Dern, Scott Caan

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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