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Ask anyone about John Schlesinger's 1976 Marathon Man and they're likely to grab their jaw and wince as they recall a maniacal Laurence Olivier performing dental torture on Dustin Hoffman. Just the whirring sound of the dentist drill can be enough to cause chills up the spine, but unfortunately even a trip to the dentist isn't enough to bring life to Novocaine, a 2001 thriller starring Steve Martin, Helena Bonham Carter, and Laura Dern. Martin is a dentist with a seemingly perfect life: a successful practice, a beautiful and competent assistant/fiancé (Dern), and all the trappings of a wealthy professional. You know the drill. But when a hot, sexy new patient (Carter) talks him into a prescription for Demerol and a metaphorical root canal, the rational, intelligent Martin becomes a lying, cheating, law-breaker. Finding himself on the lam for a murder he didn't commit, the dentist does some investigating of his own, which leads him back to Carter and the bad company she keeps, including her psychopathic brother (Scott Caan). Novocaine's plot twists and turns in sometimes interesting ways and the script has all the makings of a solid whodunit, but the film never finds its groove. First-time director David Atkins wastes time on special effects and camera tricks that attempt to symbolize moral and physical decay, but the images are distracting and the movie jerks forward in fits and starts without ever having a real flow to draw in the viewer. The fine cast does the best they can, but despite its effort at cleverness, Novocaine is bound to serve only to put you to sleep. Artisan's DVD is presented in anamorphic widescreen (1.78:1) with Dolby Digital 5.1 audio. Extras include an audio commentary with Atkins, a "making-of" featurette (with the usual "what a great cast," "loved the script" nonsense), a disturbing feature on forensic dentistry, deleted scenes, production notes, cast/crew bios, and theatrical trailers. Keep-case.
—Kerry Fall

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