Drop Dead Gorgeous Movie Review

This is not Spinal Tap. And if Drop Dead Gorgeous has a singular flaw, it's that it tries too hard to be Spinal Tap. And that's unfortunate, because as far as spoof documentaries go, Drop Dead is an otherwise gorgeous entry.

Gorgeous actually began life as a sleepy independent film called Dairy Queens, but, as is common in Hollywood, the gears began a-shiftin' in the heads of sundry studio executives, and before you knew it, Dairy Queens became a big Hollywood movie.

Sort of. Gorgeous keeps a measure of its indie charm by placing the action in a tiny Minnesota town called Mount Rose, which is hosting its annual teen beauty pageant, to the delight of the town's residents. And in the grand tradition of films like Waiting for Guffman, the real story is in the quirky inhabitants of the town, not the main plot line.

The beauty pageant, in a nutshell, pits rich girl Becky (Richards) vs. trailer trash Amber (Dunst), while Becky's mom (Alley) presides over the pageant. Naturally, cat fights and backstabbing ensue, and it becomes readily apparent that the fix is in for Becky.

Well, nothing goes according to plan, and we follow the girls to the state pageant, and through their personal lives, and for the most part, Drop Dead Gorgeous is drop dead hysterical.

But there's something missing. In the rush to invent a clever faux documentary, the filmmakers have left out much of that indie feel. Too much is obviously and blatantly staged for anyone to think for a second this is real. Hollywood can never leave well enough alone. By the time we get to the third act (the state pageant), the film has gone so far over the top that it loses its charm.

Still, I recommend Gorgeous on the overall strength of its comedy. But in that little "documentary" text opener, how much I would have given to see it followed by the words: "Their footage was found buried in the woods a year later."

Oh, the humanity!

[As a side note, I have to add that it's been a pleasure watching Kirsten Dunst grow up on celluloid. From Little Women to ER to Gorgeous, Dunst is becoming a real actor. filmcritic.com offers its congratulations.]

She's gonna make it after all...


Drop Dead Gorgeous Rating

" Good "

Rating: PG-13, 1999


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