It seems that Steve Martin has a “thing” for playing dentists. However, in his latest feature “Novocaine”, don’t expect the wacky, laughing-gas inhaling sadist he played in “Little Shop of Horrors”. In this film-noirish tale written and directed by David Atkins, Martin plays Dr. Frank Sangster, a mild-mannered dentist who thinks he’s living the American Dream. He’s got a successful practice, and a pretty, but obsessive compulsive dental hygenist/fiance (Laura Dern). Unfortunately things begin to unravel when his brother (Elias Kotteas) comes to stay and Susan, a sexy, mysterious patient (Helena Bonham Carter), seduces him into prescribing her drugs. Dr. Sangster soon finds himself caught up in a web of deceit, violence and drugs that eventually makes him a murder suspect.
The film is filled with quirky characters like Susan’s obnoxious bully brother (Scott Caan), the office staff, patients and various policemen, DEA and FBI agents, but the story gets more convoluted than humorous. At times it feels like a Scooby Doo episode full of chasing and hiding, while you’re never sure who’s really trying to frame the poor dentist. In a running gag, that becomes more annoying than funny, boom mikes are visibly hovering in scene after scene. There are a few priceless moments, like Dr. Sangster trying to work on a patient, while removing a hot pink pair of panties from a nearby chair, and the discovery of a stuffed bunny complete with a full set of dentures on his fiance’s bed. And there’s a hilarious cameo by Kevin Bacon that almost makes up for the disappointments in plot.
Another bonus is the official site, which is cleverly done in a dentist motif, complete with x-ray images and actual dental care advice, along with Martin quoting lines from the film. The film and site offer an offbeat trip, but this is certainly not recommended for anyone who’s currently thinking about major dental work.