|Steve Martin has certainly been involved in better productions than his latest effort, the dentist chair thriller, Novocaine, and one wonders why this picture didn’t come together in a more intelligent way. It should be said right off the top that it is quite easy to determine whodunit within a matter of frames after the murder that takes place and sends all the characters of this film into a tailspin. While it’s not necessarily a question of having unintelligent dialogue, as Helena Bonham Carter’s character says some of the most witty lines in the movie, the film plugs away without much authenticity.|
One of the main problems with the film is that Steve Martin doesn’t portray a very sympathetic character. All the problems thrown at his character during the film certainly dig a deeper hole for him to climb out of, but watching him climb out of the mess isn’t always the most interesting thing to do. The film is certainly ludicrous in spots, but it doesn’t maintain this completely wacky sense of humor throughout the whole film. If anything, the sensibility of the story jogs back and forth from straight horror to ridiculous comedy. And this use of the story doesn’t work.
Perhaps if the bizarre comedy had been consistent, it would have been easier to believe the story, or at least feel entertained by it. Not believing in the characters’ or their problems is quite a problem in and of itself, but it is doubly so when the story itself just makes no sense. The characters don’t always follow the direction they would probably be dramatically inclined to take. Perhaps it’s because the fake plastically world they reside in isn’t visually intriguing. While the cinematography won’t inspire any viewers, the set direction probably won’t either.
Maybe the director and his crew wanted the audience to focus on the character plights that populate the film, rather than the visuals. But the visual look of a film can only help the story if it’s done right. Maybe dentists’ offices just aren’t that interesting to look at. And the rather long sequences of dialogue in the picture really ensure that the audience gets to look at each location for a long period of time. Because it is inevitable that viewers will grow tired with the back and forth between the characters and feel their eyes wander to the set dressings.
The music of the film also might make some eyes glaze over, as it will doubtlessly make some viewers want to cover their ears in annoyance. Or in pain. Danny Elfman created the main theme for the film and Steve Bartek composed the rest of the score and neither musician was at his creative best. In fact, the opening theme by Elfman is nothing less than dreadfully annoying and is more horrifying than any crime perpetrated by a character in the movie. That’s quite a statement considering that this film is fraught with violence and murder.
Okay, perhaps it’s not quite fraught with carnage. Maybe it’s just mildly burdened with danger. The most frightening aspect of the film is not the murder; it’s the dental instruments. Steve Martin has done better with both comedy and drama in the past, and this effort seems to have caught him off-guard. Perhaps he was the wrong person for the role. Perhaps it’s the screenplay. With the success he’s had in the past, it would be nicer to say that the script just didn’t have it. And given the fact that the other actors in the film had no real impressive sequences to highlight their performances, it seems the tone and script are to blame, more than the actors themselves.
Especially since Bohnam-Carter and Dern have also had successful roles in the past. When an entire cast is without much merit, something different than their performances is most likely to blame. Maybe the blame should be handed to the director, supposedly responsible for pulling the movie together. As a first time director, David Atkins might be forgiven for his first film blunder, but Novocaine represents a poor effort on many filmmakers’ parts. This movie isn’t entertaining as a movie should be, so seeing it without the benefit of the fast forward button (say on video) would be a waste of time.
Review by Kelsey Wyatt.