Drop Dead Gorgeous

"Grim"

Drop Dead Gorgeous Review


Leaning hard into ham-fisted mockery of beauty pageants and Midwesterners, "Drop Dead Gorgeous" is an exercise in frustration.

It's frustrating because this mocumentary condemnation of the objectification of teenage girls is ripe with thick, delicious layers of irony, but director Michael Patrick Jann -- whose background is in sketch comedy -- allows that irony to be beaten to death by cheap, madcap overacting.

Following two frontrunners in the fictional American Teen Princess Pageant, "Gorgeous" applies its comedy with all the precision of a paint roller. Wide swaths of disposable laughs come from parading the absurdly varied and one-dimensional contestants before the camera. There's a showtune freak with a drag queen brother, a fat chick, an American girl adopted by Japanese immigrants, a brainiac who wants to do a Shakespeare soliloquy in the talent competition, an interpretive dancer and a soccer dyke -- whose death in a farming accident sets up the plot, revolving around how far one girl might go to win.

That girl, the ruthlessly ambitious daughter of the presiding pageant president, is played in borderline caricature by a Denise Richards ("Wild Things"), who seems to be channeling a high school stage diva wannabe. Asked by the documentary crew why she wants to be a beauty queen, she snaps her bubble gum and answers, "That's like asking why all the guys chew Copenhagen." (One of the movie's miscues is that it targets Midwesterners far more than it does beauty pageants.)

As her mom, Kirstie Alley is just as over-the-top, prefacing her defense of pageants philosophy by saying, "I know what some big city, hairy-legged, no-bra-wearin' women's libbers might say..."

Ellen Barkin, playing the trailer trash mother of another contestant, also gives a high-octane performance, boozing, swearing and offering advice like, "If they ask you to take of your top, get the money first."

In the context of deadpan irony -- a la "Spinal Tap" or "Waiting for Guffman" -- all these characters might have been a hoot. But "Gorgeous" has no sense of moderation. It feels like watching a circus clown cage match.

There is, however, a calm in the storm. The fresh-faced and superbly talented Kirsten Dunst ("Wag the Dog," "Jumanji" and the upcoming "Dick") is pitch perfect as the virtuous heroine contestant, a tap-dancing embalment apprentice with a Diane Sawyer fixation.

As the most serious challenge to Richard's presumed Teen Princess crown, Dunst's astute sense of subtlety in satire rises about the rest of the movie's over-exaggerated farce.

Occasionally hilarious, but only in fits and starts, "Drop Dead Gorgeous" had me holding my sides when Dunst visits the reigning pageant princess in the anorexia ward of the local hospital, and again when the documentary crew and a crew from "Cops" collide at a crime scene. Its Busby Berkeley spoof opening scene is a riot. The blatantly rigged and accident-prone contest -- which we see in its entirety in the last act -- gets a laugh or two. And I must mention the under-appreciated Alison Janney ("The Object of My Affection," "Big Night"), who has a small role as Barkin's best friend, a bitter, chain smoking spinster with tanned leather skin. She practically steals the movie.

But where irony runs a smooth, facetious course in movies like "Spinal Tap," "Guffman" and the similarly-themed "The Positively True Adventures of the Alleged Texas Cheerleader-Murdering Mom," this movie sadly force-feeds its satire, taking most of the fun out of its savage (and much deserved) skewering of a ridiculous insitution.

If first-time director Jann had only held back the reins just a little, "Drop Dead Gorgeous" could have been a winner.



Drop Dead Gorgeous

Facts and Figures

Run time: 97 mins

In Theaters: Friday 23rd July 1999

Box Office Worldwide: $10.6M

Budget: $10M

Production compaines: New Line Cinema, Capella International, KC Medien AG

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 2 / 5

IMDB: 6.5 / 10

Cast & Crew

Starring: as Amber Atkins, as Annette Atkins, as Loretta, as Rebecca Ann "Becky" Leeman, as Gladys Leeman, as Leslie Miller, as Lisa Swenson, as Lester Leeman, as Iris Clark, as Mary Johanson, as John Dough, Judge #1, as Hank Vilmes, as Colleen Douglas, as Himself, Seiko Matsuda as Tina / Seiko Howard, as Documentarian (voice)

Also starring:


Contactmusic


Links



Advertisement

New Movies

45 Years Movie Review

45 Years Movie Review

Like an antidote to vacuous blockbusters, this intelligent, thoughtful drama packs more intensity into a...

Straight Outta Compton Movie Review

Straight Outta Compton Movie Review

This biopic gallops through the career of groundbreaking gangsta rappers N.W.A, working its way through...

We Are Your Friends Movie Review

We Are Your Friends Movie Review

Basically the perfect summer movie, this lightweight drama has a great-looking cast and plenty of...

Sinister 2 Movie Review

Sinister 2 Movie Review

As the ghoul from the 2012 horror hit stalks a new family, this sequel's sharply...

Advertisement
Paper Towns Movie Review

Paper Towns Movie Review

After setting the scene with vivid characters and some insightful interaction, the plot of this...

Vacation Movie Review

Vacation Movie Review

Both the characters and the tone have been updated as a new generation of Grizwolds...

Trainwreck Movie Review

Trainwreck Movie Review

Amy Schumer makes her big screen debut with a script that feels like a much-extended...

The Man From U.N.C.L.E. Movie Review

The Man From U.N.C.L.E. Movie Review

Adopting a deliciously groovy vibe, Guy Ritchie turns the iconic 1960s TV spy series into...

Advertisement