Critics Consensus

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



Total Count: 107


Audience Score

User Ratings: 7,437
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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 turned inside out from the moment the alluring Susan (Helena Bonham Carter) plops down in his reclining vinyl chair: Complaining about her molars, she's really more interested in the refrigerator of narcotics the good dentist keeps on hand for his patients in pain. Once they manage to get Sangster's guard down, Susan and her brother (Scott Caan) rob him blind -- and worse yet, frame him for the theft. When a dead body turns up in Sangster's sleek suburban home, he finds that clearing his name will be a difficult proposition indeed. Novocaine marks the directorial debut of screenwriter Atkins, who first made his mark with the script for Emir Kusturica's oddball cult favorite Arizona Dream (1993).

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Steve Martin
as Dr. Frank Sangster
Laura Dern
as Jean Noble
Elias Koteas
as Harlan Sangster
Kevin Bacon
as Hip movie star [uncredited]
Jobe Cerny
as Wayne Ponze
Yasen Peyankov
as `Sunshine Lounge' Bartender
Teri Cotruzzola
as Attractive Complaining Patient
Lucina Paquet
as Mrs. Langston
Sally Kao
as Chinese Wife
Rom Milanovich
as "Blue Sands" Bartender
Quincy Wong
as Chinese Husband
George Lugg
as Liquor Store Owner
Tom Milanovich
as `Blue Sands' Bartender
Karol Kent
as Detective Lily Pons
Eddie B. Smith
as Motel Security Guard
Mary Ann Childers
as Anchorwoman
Rich Komenich
as Detective
Joe Kasala
as Officer Peter Reilly
Eric Lane
as Officer Chuck Smith
Roy Hytower
as Skinny Sheriff
Kwame Amoaku
as Visiting Room Guard
Christian Stolte
as Court guard
Len Bajenski
as Trooper Jarvis
Mindy Suzanne Bell
as Trooper Bunch
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Critic Reviews for Novocaine

All Critics (107) | Top Critics (31)

Audience Reviews for Novocaine

  • Sep 01, 2014
    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.
    Dann M Super Reviewer
  • Mar 10, 2014
    We know that Steve Martin is smarter than the character he plays here, a dentist who inexplicably gets involved with femme fatale Helena Bonham Carter, and that damages the believability. Their scenes together offer the best moments, while Laura Dern and an uncredited Kevin Bacon get to chew a little scenery. Problem is the tone is neither serious nor comic enough, so what we have is a rather vanilla thrilla.
    Doctor S Super Reviewer
  • Jan 21, 2014
    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.
    Spencer S Super Reviewer
  • Jan 09, 2014
    This movie didn't really do a lot for me as I found the execution of the concept to be more than lacking. The film tries to mix dark comedy with a noir story and it just doesn't work at all. The cast is more than fine, but their efforts aren't enough to save what is a poorly constructed film. And I really do mean that, it's like two different scripts haphazardly put together to make one film. I did like parts of the film, like Kevin Bacon's appearance as this egotistical actor who's researching a role and who's actually far more perceptive, or perhaps he's just better at guessing, than the cops who're investigating the murder case. It wasn't hilariously clever or anything of the sort, but it was something fun in a film that lacked any real sort of consistent entertainment. There's just this low-budget look and film that is only more noticeable when you see how bad the movie is. The History of Future Folk got away with it because it had a great script, cast and some incredible original songs. You focused on everything that was good about the film instead of the parts that were lacking. This movie, because it was so bad, it made the budget stand out like a sore thumb. There was potential here to make something decent. But the comedy and the noir aspects just never mixed well enough to make a coherent and consistently entertaining film.
    Jesse O Super Reviewer

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