Novocaine Review

Writer-director David Atkins presents what may be one of the slickest and most skillful black comedies of the year in the blistering thriller Novocaine. Atkins cleverly drills in the point that there's more to the decaying of one's existence besides rotten gums, serving up a filling of macabre antics surrounding the world of dentistry. And what better way to convey the sardonic wit and quirkiness of his storyline than to feature manic and sharp-edged comic actor Steve Martin as doomed dentist Frank Sangster? Martin previously played another wacky smock-wearing oral surgeon in the musical comedy Little Shop of Horrors, but as Dr. Sangster, Martin gets to more fully explore the mischievous and seedily outlandish scope of Atkins's crackling imagination.

Dr. Sangster seemingly has things under control in his life. Frank has a thriving dental practice and is even engaged to his efficient hygienist Jean (Laura Dern). Still, with everything going to plan, Frank cannot help but feel receptive to any sort of shake-up to his routine. Just once, he would like to stir things up a bit in an effort to get out of his rut. Frank even wants to engage in some kinky practices in the dental chair, but Jean won't accommodate him. Hence, Frank is left with a hankering naughty urge to satisfy.

Frank will soon get the excitement he always craved, but with deadly results. The downward spiral begins to unravel when a mysterious, sexy stranger named Susan Ivy (Helena Bonham Carter) comes calling when she inquires about a root canal. Frank becomes infatuated with the seductive patient and hastily gives her a prescription and an appointment for the following morning. While the sinister Susan is making her way into the good dentist's horny heart, Frank's riffraff brother Harlan (Elias Koteas) suddenly shows up. Harlan, up to no good, invades his brother's drug supply at the office. As bad luck would have it, Frank's new lusty target Susan and his scheming sibling are a tag team working to scam the unsuspecting doctor for drugs. Frank's world is almost immediately turned upside down, taking him into a sordid world of sex, murder, and drugs.

Novocaine (actually misspelled -- the dental drug is called Novocain) provides much of a natural high. The direction is spotty at times and the players seem to arbitrarily weave in and out of preposterous jams throughout the overly busy script, but Atkins does provide a feisty forum where his protagonists have fun exploring this deranged journey into decadence. With snappy, crisp dialogue and a sense of warped adventure, Novocaine is one absurd fable that hysterically unfolds itself in wry fashion. The slapstick may occasionally undermine the suspense, but the film sustains much of its toxic potency -- only occasionally leaving you numb.


Facts and Figures

Run time: 95 mins

In Theaters: Friday 23rd November 2001

Box Office USA: $1.5M

Box Office Worldwide: $2M

Budget: $6M

Distributed by: Artisan Entertainment

Production compaines: Numb Gums Production Inc.

Reviews 3.5 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 38%
Fresh: 41 Rotten: 66

IMDB: 5.8 / 10

Cast & Crew


Producer: , Daniel M. Rosenberg

Starring: as Mike, as Frank Sangster, as Jean Noble, as Pat, Polly Noonan as Sally, as Susan, JoBe Cerny as Pharmacist Wayne Ponze, as Harlan Sangster, as 'Sunshine Lounge' Bartender, as Duane, Teri Cotruzzola as Attractive Complaining Patient, Lucina Paquet as Mrs. Langston, Preston Maybank as Gelding, Sally Kao as Chinese Wife, Quincy Wong as Chinese Husband, George Lugg as Liquor Store Owner, Tyler Rostenkowski as Billy, Tom Milanovich as 'Blue Sands' Bartender, Karol Kent as Detective Lily Pons, as Detective Lunt, Eddie Bo Smith Jr. as Motel Security Guard, Mary Ann Childers as Anchorwoman, as Detective, James Chisem as Harris, Joseph F. Kosala as Officer Peter Reilly, Eric Lane as Officer Chuck Smith, Roy Hytower as Skinny Sheriff, Kwame Amoaku as Visiting Room Guard, Christian Stolte as Court Guard, Len Bajenski as Trooper Jarvis, Mindy Bell as Trooper Bunch, as Storch, as Actor Lance Phelps, Ed Cray as Prisoner, Christopher Glasgow as Young Lover Kissing, Marcello Robinson as Student, Dean Teaster as Sheriff

Also starring: ,