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Novocaine (2001)

Steve Martin discovers that dentistry can be a dangerous business.

Directed by:

David Atkins

Rating: 6/10

Running Time: 95 minutes

UK Certificate: 15

On DVD

Country: United States

Steve Martin stars as Frank Sangster, a successful dentist with a nearly perfect life. His practice is doing well and he enjoys his work, he is engaged to his beautiful hygienist Jean Noble, and nothing can disrupt his pleasant existence except for the occasion intrusion by his disreputable brother Harlan (Elias Koteas). Then one day he sees a new patient and his life changes. Susan Ivey (Helena Bonham Carter) is attractive and exciting. Needing a root canal, she convinces him to prescribe addictive painkillers for her against his better judgement.

When the pharmacist calls to check up on the prescription, the number of tablets on it has turned from five into 50, but Frank is unwilling to turn Susan in. When she turns up late the next night, instead of for her morning appointment, she seduces Frank. The following day however, Frank finds that she is missing, along with all the prescription drugs from his office. Suddenly he is under investigation by the police for illegally selling drugs, and even for the murder of Susan's brother (Scott Caan). Before he can work out what is happening, he is drawn into an underworld of illegal drugs, illicit sex, and even murder, as he tries to prove his innocence.

'Novocaine' has a fine cast and is based on an interesting concept, although it doesn't always come off. This is David Atkins' first feature as director and it shows. The cast are all outstanding but are clearly in need of stronger direction. While the plot has plenty of potential, the story needs to be told in a much sharper and more coherent way. The good use of 'gimmicky' visuals doesn't make up for the fact that inadequate attention has been paid to basic production values. The entertaining Steve Martin narration is in bits and pieces and would have been much better if continued throughout or done away with altogether – preferably the former. The twists and turns of the story, plus the great cast, very much save this film from the effects of weak direction.

The film includes an amusing but uncredited cameo by Kevin Bacon.

It's Got: A great if grisly ending.

It Needs: Much stronger direction.

DVD Extras An interesting featurette with this single-disc release. Extras: Featurette, Deleted scenes, Storyboards, Trailers. DVD Extras Rating: 4/10

Alternatives:

Catch Me If You Can, Dont Say a Word., The Big Lebowski

Summary

Above-average black comedy – though perhaps not ideal for those who are afraid of dentists.

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