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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Drop Dead Gorgeous
Drop Dead Gorgeous
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Review by Heather Picker | posted January 13, 2000 | E-mail the Author
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With it's comedic sensibilities that at times seem too deliberately offbeat and inhibited, "Drop Dead Gorgeous" still manages to elicit laughs as it introduces us to the world of a teen beauty pageant. Done in mockumentary style, Gorgeous follows several high school classmates from the small town of Mount Rose, Minnesota, who have entered a local, Sarah Rose Cosmetics-sponsored beauty pageant in hopes of becoming Miss Minnesota. The girl who is crowned Miss Minnesota will then compete in the 50th Annual Sarah Rose Cosmetics pageant for the coveted title of Miss Teen Princess America. The concept is great, and poses the opportunity for a scathing satire of the world of beauty pageants. But the script, by Lona Williams, though at times quite funny, never rises to an above average level and the cast includes a few weak links.

Amber Atkins (Kirsten Dunst) and Rebecca Leeman are the frontrunners in the local pageant. Atkins is down-to-earth, idolizes Diane Sawyer, and lives with her mother, beer-guzzling Annette (Ellen Barkin) in a trailer. As if idolizing Diane Sawyer wasn't enough of a defining character trait, Amber's after-school job is at the funeral home, where she practices her tap-dancing routine as she applies make-up to corpses. Rebecca (Denise Richards, who surprisingly pulls it off for the most part, though she seems too restrained at times) is a rich snob whose mother, Gladys (Kirstie Alley, who fares poorly in a role that is poorly written), a former beauty queen herself, is heavily involved in the pageant and seems determined for her daughter to win. Of course, Rebecca must have something quirky about her character, and her involvement with the Lutheran Sisterhood Gun Club is designed to provide that.

The rest of the story is fairly predictable, though incidents involving a fire and beer can, a running joke about the documentary crew and the TV show "COPS," as well an amusingly dramatic contestant, Brittany Murphy's appearance as a giggly contestant, the strange panel of local judges, a mentally retarded man, Rebecca serenading Jesus as she dances around the stage with a prop that will bring smiles to the faces of most audiences, and last year's winner, an anorexic who is now at an eating-disorder clinic, will manage to crack some people up while angering others. Ultimately, "Drop Dead Gorgeous" can never rise to the level of a satire because the comedy remains too tepid.

Dunst, who gave another immensely likable comedic performance in "Dick" (1999), is excellent as Amber, and Barkin makes the most of her role. More comic relief is provided by Allison Janney (the sex-starved counselor in "10 Things I Hate About You") as Annette's best friend, Loretta. Michael Patrick Jann's direction suffices though many of the scenes could have been infused with more intensity. Had Alley been removed and a more unrestrained script brought in, "Drop Dead Gorgeous" may have very well been one of the year's most exceptional comedies instead of the moderately amusing though generally well acted film it is.

DVD Details: Another outstanding New Line DVD, "Drop Dead Gorgeous" looks terrific and sounds great, though it lacks features beyond the original theatrical trailer, cast and crew filmographies (which include trailers for "Wag the Dog," the first "Loaded Weapon" and "Deconstructing Harry") and a DVD-ROM supplement, "Script to Screen" screenplay access. The inclusion of a commentary by the writer, director, and/or actors would have been nice. On just one side of the disc you'll find both a fullscreen version and a widescreen, anamorphically enhanced version. (Note: I only watched the widescreen version, though by all accounts the fullscreen version is also of high quality).

The transfer is excellent, with well-saturated colors, and is very clean with great detail. Your audio options include a 2.0 surround soundtrack or Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack. All dialogue is clear and audible, as is the music, but it is nothing to write home about and won't give your system any workout. Also worth mentioning are the funny interactive, animated menus, which nicely reflect the film's take on beauty pageants. MSRP $24.95, "Drop Dead Gorgeous" is best recommended as a rental due to the unimpressive soundtracks and lack of bonus material, though fans of the film will no doubt be impressed with how the movie looks.
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