A quirky comedy thriller that doesn't have quite enough laughs or thrills, Novocaine isn't a bad film, by any means, but it's far from a great one. The script isn't exactly sizzling, and the execution of the material lacks any style and flair, but everything is made better thanks to a great cast who look like they're having fun.
Steve Martin stars as Frank Sangster, an orderly and efficient dentist who runs his business with constant help from his loving partner, Jean Noble (Laura Dern). That ordered and efficient life is turned upside down by the arrival of Susan (Helena Bonham Carter), an attractive young woman who also has a bad habit of stealing drugs. Susan comes with some bad baggage, in the shape of her violent brother, Duane (Scott Caan). Frank also has a troublesome brother, Harlan (Elias Koteas), but he's not as troublesome as the corpse that turns up, looking very much like he has been put in that state by Frank.
Written and directed by David Atkins (with Paul Felopulos helping create the story), this is a quirky comedy-tinged thriller that just falls short of being really worth your time. The twists and turns aren't twisty and turny enough, the little laughs are just that - little - and the whole thing feels as if it is trying, and failing, to be cool.
The cast all do a great job, and that's what helps the film to stay just above average. Martin is solid in another non-comedic role, allowing most of the humour to come from the characters played by Dern, Caan and Koteas, who all have fun with their roles. Helena Bonham Carter is good, and Keith David and Kevin Bacon steal their limited onscreen time, playing a cop and actor researching an upcoming cop role, respectively.
Novocaine is enjoyable enough but, and here's something I thought I'd never say, there are a few much better dentist movies out there. The Dentist and The Dentist 2 are horror movies that make the best of our instinctive fears while The Whole Nine Yards takes a more similiar path to this one, with better comedic results.
This movie is worth a watch, but it's probably not one to revisit and grow overly fond of. It's more of a temporary filling.