Artisan // R // $24.99 // April 23, 2002
Review by Blake Kunisch | posted April 29, 2002
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The Movie: When this movie hit the theaters last year, I had wanted to see it - black comedy plus Steve Martin just can't go wrong, but it was released in limited theaters and I just couldn't find the time to see it. Now that Artisan's released the DVD, with a good amount of extras, I decided to give it a view.

The comedy is most definitely dark (my favorite type) and the acting is top-notch throughout. Steve Martin stars as Dr. Frank Sangster, a dentist, whose seemingly perfect world unravels after one little lie about one little patient (played by Helena Bonham Carter). As the one little lie becomes two, the two become four and the four become eight, until Dr. Sangster is faced with a murder he's accused of, a distrusting fiancee, and a relationship with his patient that revolves around sex and drugs.

Written and directed by David Atkins, this offbeat comedy succeeds on many levels. The script is superb as it keeps you guessing throughout with comedic surprises around every corner. The acting is similarily well done - Steve Martin is perfect as the demure doctor whose life just unravels before him and Helena turns in a role similar to her Fight Club drug-addict character.

Darkly funny, with perfect direction by the writer, Novocaine is the kind of film most people missed in the theaters due to its limited release, that must not be missed on DVD.

The Picture: The picture is clean and crisp throughout. While being a dark comedy, much of the film takes place in the bright offices of Dr. Frank Sangster and the whites are amazingly bright. The only downside to the picture that I was able to see was the small amount of grain visible in a few scenes. You'd think that with this being such a recent release, they would have had a much cleaner print to work with.

The Sound: The audio, similar to the video is crisp and fills the 6 channels superbly. The DVD offers both Dolby Digital 5.1 and 2.0 soundtracks and, being a dark comedy, the film relies on a lot of dialogue which is clear and easily heard throughout. Distortion was not evident at any point and the surrounds are utilized impressively in situations where you wouldn't expect it.

The Extras: The extras on this disc are surprisingly interesting. Aside from the standard director's commentary, trailers, and deleted scenes, we're presented with a couple featurettes which are both interesting and informative along with a "music of novocaine" feature and deleted scenes with or without director's commentary. Also scattered throughout the menus are some easter eggs, two of which I was able to discover on my own.

The first featurette is entitled, "Getting the Shot" - The Making of Novocaine, and features the standard interviews with the cast, raving about the script, the director and such with various clips of behind the scenes direction and filming. There's really not much here that hasn't been done before, but it does offer an interesting look behind the scenes of this film.

Secondly, we have, "Bitten" - An Exploration into Forensic Dentistry. This is a very interesting featurette which contains interviews with various forensic dentists as they give a behind-the-scenes look into their jobs. I'm a huge fan of C.S.I. and this featurette goes a bit deeper than the TV show ever does with a more scientific view of their jobs - most interesting.

The commentary included on the disc is by the writer/director David Atkins. It's an interesting commentary as he is able to comment on both the script and direction as a first-time director. Along with commenting on the technical process of directing his film, he also points out various mistakes made throughout the film which proves to be entertaining, and a nice element. The commentary is fun to listen to throughout and a very nice addition to the film. A must-watch after seeing the film once.

The deleted scenes are pretty basic on this disc. They can be viewed with or without director's commentary and are a nice, but not essential addition. The "Music of Novocaine" features 6 different clips from the soundtrack, each about 30 seconds long. It's basically a way to try and get you to buy the soundtrack more than anything else.

Conclusion: Most people missed Novocaine when it was released in the lackluster fall of 2001. Now, with an acceptable transfer to DVD with some great extras, I would highly recommend giving this film a chance. The price tag may be a bit high, but I think it's justified with the great extras delivered by Artisan. If you're a fan of dark comedies, I'd recommend picking this up, otherwise, give it a rent.

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