January 28, 2012 9 Min Read

Review by: Matt Brighton

Plot: What’s it about?

Novocaine is like, or unlike I should say, so many other movies out there. As with the black comedy genre, they all do share a common trait in the sense that death or anything having to do with pain and/or suffering is taken with a much lighter tone. Does that make sense? But as Steve Martin admits, he was attracted to the role because he’s been known for the majority of his career as a comic; and for good reason too…he’s one of the funniest men alive! But as he admits in one of the featurettes, he says he liked doing a movie called The Spanish Prisoner which was directed by one David Mamet. He then concludes that this movie was written and directed by another David, David Atkins…and he was then sold. He is, of course, kidding; but it’s nice to see him in a nice change of pace role. Combined with the talents of Atkins who both wrote and directed his movie debut (and is a former dentist himself along with his brothers and father), a great cast including Laura Dern, Scott Caan, Keith David, Helena Bonham Carter and a suprise cameo by…well, I won’t ruin the surprise.

It starts out innocently enough. We meet Frank Sangster (Steve Martin), who is very prominent dentist. He loves his work, and while watching a classic movie on his monitor, he does his oral surgery thing. His lovely assistant and future wife, Jean Noble (Laura Dern) never has a pin out of place, is good at her work and it’s clear that these two will have a long and lovely life together. Or will they? Enter Susan Ivey (Helena Bonham Carter). Frank is immediately taken with her, and though her root canal is scheduled for the next day, she does manage to get some Demerol from him in the form of a perscription. So far, nothing is wrong, but the next day she shoes up at his office and the two exchange some bodily fluids in the dentist’s chair. Add to this that the day after that, all of the drugs in the office come up missing and Frank finds himself in the middle of a DEA investigation. As he puts it, a lie is like a cavity; it starts out as something in between your teeth and it gets more and more out of control. This is exactly what it happeneing with his life, it’s getting more and more out of control.

Now add to the mix the semi-incestious relationship betwen Susan and her brother (Scott Caan). You see, as it turns out, they are working together going from town to town visiting dentists offices (because they’re typically not as smart as doctors, says Susan) and raiding them of their drugs and then selling them on the street. But this time, a murder occurs and while the downward spiral that is Frank’s life continues that way, he is falling for Susan (much to the dislike of Jean). Novocaine might not be the most original movie out there, but I found it very entertaining and even funny in some parts. To accompany this DVD release, Artisan sent along a cute little fuzzy bunny with a very wicked smile. Watch the movie and you’ll see how that factors into this movie that will literally keep you guessing until the end. Hopefully Novocaine will find new life on DVD, as they have given this a treatment. I suppose my only complaint is that a talented actress like Helena Bonham Carter keeps taking roles as drugged out losers, she plays essentially the same role here as she did in Fight Club. But she’s good at it, so what am I complaining about?

Video: How does it look?

It seems that Artisan tends to present films in the 1.77:1 or 1.78:1 aspect ratio. Why I notice that, I don’t know. Regardless, Novocaine is shown in the latter of the two and is enhanced for widescreen TV’s. The film used is very hard to describe. There are many visual effects to it that can vary from scene to scene. However, the brunt of the picture looks very good, crisp and clean with no faults that I detected whatsoever. The fleshtones are a bit burned out, but it’s supposed to look that way. From the opening scene to the end, each is a bit different. Some scenes are so surreal that describing them is next to impossible. Let’s just say that you will not be disappointed with the way this translates to DVD.

Audio: How does it sound?

A surprisingly very active Dolby Digital 5.1 track is included here. Dialogue is perfect, free of any distortion and the surround effects were a nice little treat indeed. While this had only a few instances where all five channels were humming away, they were used with great care and when used, I noticed. A few explosions, trains and such are just a few of the things on screen that might make you turn your head and stare in the direction of the speaker, that’s what I did anyway. I’ve really nothing to complain about here, as this was a lot better than I was expecting.

Supplements: What are the extras?

Proving once again that when they want to, Artisan can put out a pretty good disc. In addition to the great video and audio quality, this comes with a nice litte array of supplements. First up is the audio commentary with writer/director David Atkins. Just like in the featurettes, he is very proud of his work here. For a first time director, he has been extremely lucky with the cast and comments on that during the track. There’s not a lot of slow spots, and if you’re a fan of the movie, then this track is one you won’t want to miss. A series of five deleted scenes are included as well. I did manage to find an easter egg on this screen, it’s a picture of a bunny, but when I pressed it I couldn’t really figure out what it did. If someone knows, let me know! The scenes are a combination of deleted and outtakes as some end in laughter and others just end. Still, a nice feature. “Bitten” is a look at how forensics are used in the dentistry field, and real dentists are interviewed to tell how they have solved crimes and also comment on the movie. “Getting the shot” is more like an EPK that is more of the “making of…” than anything else. Interviews with the cast and crew are included. The “Music of Novocaine” is another interesting feature that deals with…you guessed it, the music of the film. Though I didn’t feel the music played that big of a part, evidently the filmmakers did! Round it out with some cast and crew bios, production notes and a tehatrical trailer and you’ve got a good disc of a very good movie. It might make me like my dentist even less though…

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