HTF REVIEW: "Novocaine" (with screenshots)

Discussion in 'Archived Threads 2001-2004' started by Ronald Epstein, Apr 2, 2002.

  1. Ronald Epstein

    Ronald Epstein Administrator

    Jul 3, 1997
    Likes Received:
    Real Name:
    Ronald Epstein


    Getting to the root of the problem
    is like pulling teeth.

    I didn't quite know what to make of Novocaine,
    as the film was being hyped as a comedic perfection.
    Truth of the matter is, you will have a very hard
    time wondering exactly what genre Novocaine
    Frank Sangster (Steve Martin) is a dentist with
    a successful practice and beautiful fiancée, Jean
    (Laura Dern), who also works as one of his dental
    assistants. He's a straight man, always playing
    by the books, and the last thing he needs is trouble
    that comes in the form of a sexy patient named
    Susan Ivey (Helena Bonham Carter).
    Susan complains of a severe toothache and seduces
    Sangster into prescribing her 5 tablets of Demerol.
    It is not long before we learn Susan has forged the
    prescription from 5 to 50 pills.
    Like a cavity that slowly grows from within, the
    story spreads into a much bigger mess that gets
    Sansgter involved with murder, drugs and even a
    little love and lust.
    Despite the incredible cast, Novocaine
    really doesn't go anywhere in its 95 minute run.
    Martin reacts in this film as if he is sleepwalking,
    and at points it doesn't even feel like you should
    even care, but still the movie goes on. If there is
    any savior to this film it's Helena Bonham Carter,
    but she doesn't nearly give the performance she
    did in last year's PLANET OF THE APES.
    How is the transfer?
    Artisan's 16X9 enhanced widescreen (1.85:1)
    transfer leaves much to be desired. The film
    almost appears to have this "shot on video"
    feel making the picture look very unnatural.
    Colors are a little too vivid -- especially
    in the flesh tones that run extremely red. It's
    as if someone turned the color gain up a bit
    too high during the transfer.
    What's even worse is the amount of visible
    video noise in the picture, so evident that
    it becomes an annoyance. I am usually used to
    seeing noise in dark scenes, but in this case,
    even the day lit scenes sport an unusual amount
    of picture noise.
    The 5.1 Dolby Digital mix is very good. Use
    of the rear speakers are used sparingly for
    enhancing Danny Elfman's score as well as the
    film's effects. In a scene where Dr. Sangster
    meets his brother (Elias Koteas) in a bar, the
    rears come alive with the sounds of surrounding
    music and patrons moving across the room. There
    are also some nice effect touches added in the
    form of an oncoming train or evading traffic.
    Special Features
    The DVD features a full length commentary by
    Director David Atkins.
    Bitten introduces us to real-life
    forensic dentists who talk about why they got
    into the field, and some of the most interesting
    aspects of it. One of the dentists talks about
    his involvement in the Ted Bundy and Jeffrey
    Dahmer murder cases. It's interesting to see
    how dental evidence is just as important as
    fingerprinting and DNA. Note how bite marks on
    a victim's body or even duct tape that was bitten
    off led to the conviction of a murderer. This
    8-minute featurette is a somewhat interesting look
    at forensic dentistry and how vital it can be to
    crime solving.
    Where did the inspiration for this movie come
    from? Writer/Director David Atkins tells us he
    comes from a family of Dentists in Getting The
    Shot, a behind-the-scenes featurette. Steve
    Martin, Helen Bonham Cater and Laura Dern talk
    about the domino effect of the story as well as
    how they were attracted to coming aboard as a
    cast member. Fortunately, this 8-minute
    documentary shows us more on-location footage
    than most featurettes of this sort do as cameras
    roll in a dentist's office or along a darkened
    highway strip.
    There are five Deleted Scenes that include:
    * Dr. Sangster having a heart-to-heart
    talk with his brother, Harlan. Harlan confesses
    his shady past and that he is now a changed man.
    The scene ends with a wrist wrestle fight between
    the two.
    * Dr. Sangster pleading for information
    from a hotel clerk at the Golden Slumbers Motel.
    * Holed up in a jail pen, Dr. Sangster
    meets his new cell mates, one of which is very
    eager to get a new toothbrush. You'll find out
    * What seems to be an alternate ending
    of the film has Dr. Sangster in his own little
    heaven juggling beside Susan Ivey, swinging on
    a tree swing.
    * Showing what could go wrong in the
    simplest of scenes, Steve Martin has problems
    putting on a bathrobe.
    Music of Novocaine gives you a list of
    five selections of music from the film that you
    can highlight and hear excerpts of. It really
    serves no purpose than to hype the film's soundtrack.
    Two of the film's Original trailers are
    included. I found these especially interesting
    to watch for the opportunity to see how a RED BAND
    trailer (for adults) differs from a GREEN BAND
    trailer (all ages) in promoting a film.
    Finally, we get the usual Production Notes
    and Cast and Crew biographies.
    Final Thoughts
    This film had a tough time figuring out what
    it wanted to be. You watch Steve Martin sleepwalk
    through the motions and at any moment you wish
    he'd break out into some kind of wacky physical
    comedy, but almost halfway through the film, you
    realize it just isn't going to happen. With such
    a great cast, everyone involved delivers a second
    rate performance.
    I also felt that this DVD from ARTISAN comes
    off as being somewhat second-rate with a less
    than desired transfer quality. If the film had
    been better, the added bonus content would have
    been more worthwhile.
    Not worth a purchase, but good for a rent to
    see a semi-nude Helen Bonham Carter.
    Release Date: April 23, 2002
  2. Seth Paxton

    Seth Paxton Lead Actor

    Nov 5, 1998
    Likes Received:
    In regards to the film only, 2 things to know:

    1) Helena Bonham Carter is freaking hot.

    2) This film is rather dull, unfortunately.

    Only IMHO of course. Just one person's take on it.

    If you haven't seen it this might be a good one to rent before buying. However I'm certain that some people who love any dark comedy/thrillers no matter what quality will get something from this film. I just think this type of story has been done much better elsewhere.

    It does sound like a decent DVD version of it though.
  3. Michael St. Clair

    May 3, 1999
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    I saw the film in the theater, and I liked it. Didn't love it, but liked it.

    As far as genres go, I'd say film noir meets pulp novels.
  4. Michael Reuben

    Michael Reuben Studio Mogul

    Feb 12, 1998
    Likes Received:
    Michael St. Clair and I are among the 5 people who saw this film theatrically. I reviewed it in Movies last November:
    I enjoyed seeing it, but once was probably enough. Helena Bonham Carter was great, but Laura Dern is by far the best part of the film. (And then there's the bunny.)
  5. LukeB

    LukeB Cinematographer

    Apr 26, 2000
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  6. chris c

    chris c Stunt Coordinator

    Jun 30, 1997
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    "Surely you didn't mean that her performance in Planet of the Apes was good?"

    Yes, I believe he did and stop calling him Shirley. OK, this doesn't work as well when written.
  7. Colin Jacobson

    Colin Jacobson Producer

    Apr 19, 2000
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  8. Scott Weinberg

    Scott Weinberg Lead Actor

    Oct 3, 2000
    Likes Received:
    Solid review, Ron. I enjoyed the film a bit more than you did, but I've always been a Steve Martin freak.
    Oh, and Helena's hot! [​IMG]

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