Projections - Movie Reviews



Steve Martin is probably in need of a good dose of laughing gas in Novocaine as the opening shot of dental x-rays has foreboding implications that one's life is synonymous with tooth decay.  While somewhat weird and wry this film from first time director David Atkins isn't as darkly amusing as it could be given the able cast which includes Laura Dern and Helena Bonham Carter.

Martin is successful dentist Dr. Frank Sangster who will be caught up in something that may start out as innocuous as a piece of food stuck between teeth, but what happens to Frank is more painful than Martin can express as he's an easy target for corruption and crime.  The comedic actor who has made some dramatic turns in films like The Spanish Prisoner and A Simple Twist of Fate is quite different than his eccentric dentist in Frank Oz's Little Shop of Horrors.

Dr. Sangster is more gentle and kept in control by office manager Pat (Lynne Thigpen) and his self-assured, very organized assisting hygienist Jean, played by Dern.  But there's something missing in Frank's life and it comes in his 7:30 appointment with Bonham Carter's Susan Ivey who is in need of a root canal, but desirous of closer examination in the dental chair.

Susan is the temptress that rids Frank of his storage of dental drugs, as this sexy, but unkempt addict has something over the gullible dentist and is a key figure in his involvement in the demise of her hyper bullying brother, Duane, played belligerently by Scott Caan.  Frank first met the cranky fellow while at a bar with his usual, wayward brother Harlan (Elias Koteas) whom Jean says once molested her.

As Martin moderately understates his part with brooding and some informative but un-zesty voice-overs, Atkins doesn't stimulate the proceedings visually with as much atmosphere as there is action.  Frank is a character that is hard to pinpoint and Novocaine could have been more provocative, if Bonham Carter was as alluring like Heather Graham's hooker in From Hell.

The story never lets Martin really explore the flaws of a man which the narration outlines, as too much of Novocaine has Frank trying to keep Jean in the dark while he attempts to get his supply of drugs back by appealing to Susan's better side.

With some more witty, offbeat moments and a more biting script, Novocaine could have been able to be injected with more depth and precision.


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