Dr. Feelgood


Directed David Atkins

(Steve Martin, Helena Bonham-Carter, Laura Dern, Elias Koteas)



Have you ever fantasized about having sex in a dentist’s chair? You know, maybe you’re in for a filling or something, the gas is just starting to kick in, and all you hear is the soft purring of the machine as you slowly recline backwards. Does your mind become filled with all sorts of new and sordid ways of using the water pick or the suction machine, setting your nether regions tingling? Do you ponder all the various contortions that mechanical chair could achieve, giggling to yourself at the double meanings of words such as “oral” and “cavity?” Me neither.

However, these questions would be answered with an enthusiastic “Aw yeah baby,” by Frank Sangster (Steve Martin), the protagonist of the new film Novocaine. Frank is a dentist whose less than sexually adventurous girlfriend-cum-dental-hygienist Jean (Laura Dern) refuses to indulge Frank’s dental chair fantasy.

Relegated to having sex in the traditional domain of the bedroom, Frank’s stifled libido makes like a NASCAR driver on crank when a sultry new patient named Susan (Helena Bonham-Carter) saunters into his office. Susan has no problem opening up and saying “ahh,” as it were, in exchange for a prescription for Demerol.

From there, the film follows the traditional film noir plot line: drugs come up missing, Frank takes heat from the cops, Frank becomes involved in a seedy underworld of drugs and murder, everyone double crosses everyone else, etc.

The only problem with Novocaine is that for a film that is supposed to be a thriller with a funny bone, the film is neither thrilling nor funny. Every plot twist in the film is about as original as a Calvin-pissing-on-something sticker, and every “humorous” scene seems like it could have been stolen from the Coen Brothers’ cutting room floor.

While Martin does a good job with what he’s given to work with, I couldn’t help but cringe every time he spouted off an awkward simile likening everything in his life to something in his dental work. “Lying is like tooth decay…” he muses. No, Steve.

With its hackneyed plot and gratuitous use of “innovative” x-ray scene wipes, this film is like tooth decay, and one almost can’t wait for the novocaine to kick in before ripping the diseased tooth from their head.

-Christopher Yocum


Novocaine opens today at the Uptown Theatre.