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Scott Ventura >> Movie Commentary >> October 2002 >> Novocaine


Movie Commentary by Scott Ventura


Scott's Rating:
4 / 5
Times Seen:
Viewing Date:
October 2002
IMDB Name:
Novocaine (2002)
David Atkins
comedy, crime, mystery, suspense
MPAA Rating:
R for violence, sexuality, language and drug content.


Dentistry is not the most glamorous of the medical arts. Steve Martin played a motorcycle-riding, bad-boy dentist in 1986's Little Shop of Horrors, which punched things up a bit. He was, however, an evil dentist there. In Novocaine, Martin plays a mild-mannered dentist. His office is a bustle of activity, but he's the eye of the storm. His desires lead to an intricate series of adventures that take him completely out of his element. Even though he's completely inexperienced at deception, and ill-equipped to deal with shady characters, he's always convinced that he can talk his way out of any situation. He has, however, been anticipated every step of the way, and I was thrilled to see the trap close around him. The ever-increasing absurdity of the situation lends a surprising dose of comedy to the suspense. There's a little more gore at the end than I usually like, but the story had earned it.

Martin's squirming is exquisite. He's at his most earnest here, and his subtle panic is perfectly modulated throughout. Laura Dern is just a tiny bit over the top as the perfectionist fiancee. The exquisitely-crafted relationship at which she's worked so hard appears to be crumbling around her, and her slow descent into madness is great fun. This is the polar opposite of her character in Citizen Ruth, a dedicated go-getter on the verge of having it all. The contrast is delicious. On the other hand, Helena Bonham Carter is playing almost the same part as she did in Fight Club. It's easy to see why a straight-laced dentist with an almost- perfect girlfriend would fall so easily for her blunt manipulations. Kevin Bacon has some terrific scenes, showing his potential for comedy. I've been told that he's been making a mini-career out of playing characters very much like himself. If it's always this entertaining, he should keep it up. Better this than dreck like Hollow Man.

Copyright 2002-2003 by Scott Ventura. All rights reserved.