Novocaine
**.9 GM
Starring: Steve Martin, Laura Dern, Helena Bonham Carter, Scott Caan, Elias Koteas, Keith David

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I never would have thought I'd see Steve Martin in an 'erotic thriller,' but lo and behold, he nails a topless Helena Bonham Carter in a hip sex scene set to hard rock music. First time for everything, I suppose.

Good ol' Steve is a dentist in an ideal life, engaged to hottie dental assistant Laura Dern, well-off, comfortable and situated with his routine, but he feels like it's not quite right. Plus, he's got a fucked-up addict brother in Elias Koteas hovering around him, wearing his jealousy all over his sleeve, down the front of his shirt and splattered all over the crotch of his pants. Then Helena Bonham Carter shows up as a junkie with a toothache that comes onto him like gangbusters and causes all sorts of problems.

The film doesn't seem to know what it's trying to be - dark comedy, erotic thriller, suspenseful-chase flick, murder-mystery, what-have-you - and while it bounces back and forth between these concepts, it can't help but feel a bit unfocused. The tone meanders a bit from heavy to silly, and thus it doesn't create a hell of a lot of dramatic tension.

Another issue is that the characters don't seem completely real, but it's not the fault of the actors. The story leads them along on excursions that don't always make sense, and towards the end, Dern's character suddenly starts morphing into some obnoxious cartoonish version of herself, and it just seems ludicrous.

Despite all my problems, though, it still manages to be somewhat entertaining and interesting, and it wasn't entirely predictable, either. I enjoyed all the people and performances in this film so much that I had a decent time watching it. It's not a very good movie, but dude, it's Steve Martin. I'll give Steve Martin a chance in any film. Except maybe "Father of the Bride II: Father of the Bridier."

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