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Novocaine (2001)



Average Rating: 4.7/10
Reviews Counted: 107
Fresh: 41 | Rotten: 66

The quirky Novocaine flirts with both dark comedy and noir suspense, but the result is a jarring mix of tones which never quite mesh.


Average Rating: 4.6/10
Critic Reviews: 30
Fresh: 10 | Rotten: 20

The quirky Novocaine flirts with both dark comedy and noir suspense, but the result is a jarring mix of tones which never quite mesh.



liked it
Average Rating: 2.8/5
User Ratings: 7,378

My Rating

Movie Info

In this darkly comic film noir from writer/director David Atkins, Steve Martin revisits dentistry -- an occupation he'd explored 15 years prior, in the camp musical Little Shop of Horrors. Novocaine casts Martin as a much more mild-mannered D.D.S., Dr. Frank Sangster. Engaged to a prim and delicate hygienist, Jean (Laura Dern), Sangster leads a placid, upper-middle class existence, save for the occasional visit from his deadbeat artist brother Harlan (Elias Koteas). But Sangster finds his life


Drama, Comedy

David Atkins

Apr 23, 2002


Artisan Entertainment - Official Site External Icon

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December 21, 2005:
Critical Consensus: "Dick & Jane" Not Much Fun; "Cheaper" Is Bankrupt
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All Critics (119) | Top Critics (33) | Fresh (41) | Rotten (66) | DVD (24)

The casting is peculiar, the tone is off, the plot is uninteresting and the ending is sorry.

December 28, 2001 Full Review Source: San Francisco Chronicle
San Francisco Chronicle
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Plays like the sort of silly shared fantasy that a group of dental students might come up with late one night, after too much coffee and cramming for finals.

December 27, 2001
Orlando Sentinel
Top Critic IconTop Critic

This movie was not effective.

November 27, 2001 Full Review Source: Ebert & Roeper
Ebert & Roeper
Top Critic IconTop Critic

A coarse, witless and stunningly violent black comedy.

November 24, 2001
Washington Post
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Atkins never finds the right tone for Novocaine. It's not dark enough to be either viciously funny or unsettling.

November 20, 2001 Full Review Source:
Top Critic IconTop Critic

With Bonham Carter's been-there, done-that performance and a plot that spins out of control, we end up with a movie that you can't quite sink your teeth into.

November 16, 2001 Full Review Source: USA Today
USA Today
Top Critic IconTop Critic

This dark, stylish tale isn't for kids.

December 26, 2010 Full Review Source: Common Sense Media
Common Sense Media

It is entertaining enough to arouse imagination of post-Tarantino audience.

March 18, 2005 Full Review

Prejudicado por um roteiro previsível e que jamais opta por um gênero claro, o filme traz uma ótima atuação de Steve Martin, que deveria fazer mais filmes "sérios".

May 31, 2003
Cinema em Cena

The film and site offer an offbeat trip, but this is certainly not recommended for anyone who's currently thinking about major dental work.

December 8, 2002 Full Review Source: Film Threat
Film Threat

To say this is black comedy is to understate the case, but the fun parts really are a hoot.

October 21, 2002 Full Review Source: San Diego Metropolitan
San Diego Metropolitan

While the plot does work in mechanical terms, its multiple ins and outs never achieve more than plodding motion.

October 15, 2002 Full Review Source: Cincinnati Enquirer
Cincinnati Enquirer

In a world filled with technically beautiful dogs, every once in awhile it's nice to see a film that bets the bank on great storytelling and a whole lot of soul.

September 13, 2002

Filled with dark, edgy details and atmosphere, but ultimately becomes a very cold enterprise because you simply don't care about any of the characters.

September 9, 2002 Full Review Source: Film Journal International
Film Journal International

Intriguingly straddles genres a bit, but a faint sliver of the film it could have been... [with a] lame, roundly unsatisfying motivation and ending.

August 27, 2002 Full Review Source: Entertainment Today
Entertainment Today

One senses a gradual erosion of confidence behind the camera, and it may be that the thing wraps up just before [it] comes apart in a Tarantino-esque panic

August 6, 2002 Full Review
Arkansas Democrat-Gazette of the funniest dark comedies in recent years.

July 9, 2002 Full Review

This Hitchcockian yarn compensates for its leading man's rather anonymous performance with some well-placed shocks, a morbid sense of humour, and a climax that will literally put your teeth on edge.

July 1, 2002 Full Review Source:

An odd, unsettling film, an uneasy blend of comedy and sadism that never seems to mesh into a coherent or particularly enjoyable whole.

June 23, 2002 Full Review Source: Goatdog's Movies
Goatdog's Movies

...making a brief stopover in theaters before reaching its final destination on a high-numbered cable channel during hours when only film critics and night watchmen are awake.

June 5, 2002
Philadelphia Weekly

Only a slightly better experience than getting a root canal.

May 20, 2002 Full Review Source: Ozus' World Movie Reviews
Ozus' World Movie Reviews

The whole macabre piece comes across as uneven.

December 27, 2001 Full Review Source: Orlando Weekly
Orlando Weekly

Novocaine, like the drug for which it was named, will leave the viewer numb.

December 21, 2001 Full Review Source:

I can think of worse things than Novocaine. Like getting a tooth filled.

November 30, 2001
Fresno Bee

Audience Reviews for Novocaine

Martin took a chance in being in this little known, little seen, conspiracy thriller. It has an interesting concept and the plot is definitely worth following, but the ultimate villain isn't all that impressive or frightening. What makes this film especially unseemly has to be its reliance on black humor, which comes off less funny and more grotesque. There's this scene near the end that is so disgusting and gross that I don't even want to think about it, and that quickly veers it away from being interesting gumshoe mystery and into weird existential quandary. If the ending were a little less slovenly this film would probably be lauded for its intricate story and the great performance from Helena Bonham Carter as the drug dealer's (Caan) sister and the seductress of the dentist (Martin). Martin feels misplaced in the film, mostly because we're used to either subdued serious performances or out of control wackiness in comedies. It's just a little too all over the place to make it as memorable as it should be.
January 21, 2014

Super Reviewer

This has been a quite entertaining movie. Not really a top notch movie, not really working as a comedy, but still pretty entertaining. It started out veeery slow and boooring - it took a little too long for it to evolve. But when it started to it got better and better. There's that very freaky story and a wrecked Bonham-Carter (she's good playin such characters ;-) adding most to this film. However the ending was a little too fantastic since it shouldn't be a problem for the forensics to ... no, I won't spoil hehe.

My favourite scene was Martin's call where he spoke to that guy who answered the phone with "barbie's bakery. it's mr. muffin man speakin." LOL

My overall rating is: 6.5/10 - if you're not sure what to watch, try this one. It works pretty well as entertainment
September 22, 2007

Super Reviewer

While I'm not going to say I'd defend this movie to the death, I will say that if you like Steve Martin, you might be willing to see everything he tries. This like, say, The Spanish Prisoner , is something different for Martin, and while it is not an entirely successful movie, it is not unwatchable. Big points to Carter and Laura Dern for enhancing the experience with memorable characters. The ending is a bit much, it's true, but the story of lies compiling and coming back to bite you is told in an unusual, sometimes surprising and sometimes entertaining way.
April 23, 2006

Super Reviewer

Odd but strangely alluring, Novocaine is a suspenseful back comedy. After being seduced by a femme fatale, Dr. Frank Sangster finds himself caught up in a web of lies, sex, and murder. Starring Steve Martin, Helena Bonham Carter, Laura Dern, and Scott Caan, the cast is quite good, as are the performances (especially Carter's). Additionally, the writing balances the dark themes with light humor rather well. Still, the film does have some problems, as the tone's a bit uneven at times and most of the characters aren't fleshed out. Novocaine has some rough spots, but overall it's an entertaining film that's full of intrigue.
September 1, 2014
Dann Michalski

Super Reviewer

    1. Jean Noble: I've taken care of everybody my whole life, and I am fucking tired! I have organised everything, I have made everything perfect, I made everybody's lives work smoothly and I am tired of being a caretaker CO-DEPENDENT NO MORE! Do you know how hard it is to be perfect? When everybody need you to take care of them? Has anybody ever done that for me? Nobody has ever done that for me, nobody, NOBODY! And you know what? I am tired of everybody else getting all the stuff and me being left out. I wanna be the boss! I wanna be on top! Because I deserve it all! And I'm gonna get it! And if you don't understand that, you really a fucking idiot!
    – Submitted by Sylvester K (21 months ago)
    1. Mike: Barbie's Bakery, it's Mr. Muffin speaking.
    – Submitted by Sylvester K (21 months ago)
View all quotes (2)

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