UK release date: Mar 26 2008

cast list

Steve Martin
Helena Bonham Carter
Laura Dern
Scott Caan
Kevin Bacon
Elias Koteas

directed by
David Atkins

In Novocaine, Steve Martin plays a successful small-town dentist named Frank Sangster, secure in hisneatly ordered existence and happily engaged to Jean Noble (Laura Dern), hisambitious dental hygienist. Sangster’s life is about to change with the arrivalof Susan Ivy (Helena Bonham Carter), a new patient who walks in needing a rootcanal and winds up getting Frank mixed up in a world of sex, drugs and murder.

Novocaine tries hard to be a film reminiscent of the Coen Brothers’ Fargo andBlood Simple, combining laughter with suspense. Unfortunately Mr. Atkins, youare neither Ethan or Joel. There are some laughs, but they are few and farbetween. The “twists and turns” are neither surprising or inventive. They’re fartoo obvious and predictable. Even the visual style of the film is bland,resembling something one would see more on the small screen than the big one.

Martin turns in a nice performance as the wrongly accused dentist out to clearhis name. Laura Dern gives her role a lot of juice while Helena Bonham Carter,who seems a bit out of place, is adequate as the mysterious Susan. Scott Caanchews up the scenery in a few small sections (just like his dear ol’ dad) asSusan’s psychopathic brother while Elias Koteas shows up briefly as Frank’sdeadbeat younger brother, Harlan.

Keep an eye out for Kevin Bacon’s trulyhilarious cameo as a Hollywood actor in town researching for his next role as ahomicide detective. He’s only in the film for about five minutes, but he makesthat limited time worthwhile.

Novocaine is a half-hearted and all-too predictable trip into Coen Brothersterritory. Despite a game effort by leads Steve Martin, Helena Bonham Carterand Laura Dern, this new black comedy/film noir from first-time director DavidAtkins fails to deliver in the laughter, thrills or entertainment departments.

It’s always a shame when a movie has a great cast and a promising premise, onlyto see it largely go down the drain when not enough effort is shown behind thecamera. That is the case with Novocaine.

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