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.



Reviews Counted: 107

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User Ratings: 7,441


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Average Rating: N/A
Reviews Count: 0
Fresh: 0
Rotten: 0


Average Rating: 2.8/5

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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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News & Interviews for Novocaine

Critic Reviews for Novocaine

All Critics (107) | Top Critics (30)

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

Dec 28, 2001 | Rating: 1/4 | Full Review…

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.

Dec 27, 2001

This movie was not effective.

Nov 27, 2001

A coarse, witless and stunningly violent black comedy.

Nov 24, 2001 | Rating: 1/5

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

Nov 20, 2001

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.

Nov 16, 2001 | Rating: 2/4
USA Today
Top Critic

Audience Reviews for Novocaine

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 Michalski
Dann Michalski

Super Reviewer


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.
Spencer S.

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

Cassandra Maples
Cassandra Maples

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.

Lanning : )
Lanning : )

Super Reviewer

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