After seeing “Novocaine,” directed by David Atkins and starring Steve Martin, you will never view a dentist”s office the same way again. A surprisingly funny and creative script leaves the audience very amused and curious as to how the film will end.

Dr. Frank Sangster has everything a beautiful fianc (also his dental hygienist), a secure dental practice and a bright future. But things go horribly wrong when Susan (Helena Bonham Carter), a young and vulnerable drug addict, comes in for a sore tooth. Finding the seductive girl very attractive, he makes two mistakes he prescribes her a strong narcotic against his better judgment and he then he finds himself fulfilling his steamiest sexual fantasies, with her in the dental chair. His immoral decision only intensifies when he finds his narcotics supply completely gone the next day and a suspicious government official waiting in his office. Frank knows Susan raided the office. Here is a chance to come clean and allay rumors of selling the drugs (a severe threat to his licensed practice), but he makes an even bigger mistake by covering for Susan, claiming he doesn”t know how they disappeared.

This little lie inevitably creates new lies, and what started out as something very small soon becomes a huge burden kind of like tooth decay. The crucial plot elements in “Novocaine” delightfully involve teeth, which somehow act as a cohesive force within the film. As the plot thickens and tension builds, Frank finds himself in over his head running from the police and dealing with his loser brother Harlan (Elias Koteas), who recently moved in, and hunting down Susan in a motel room, only to find her with Scott (Duane Ivey), a crazed and psychopath brother of her own. And on top of all this, after coming home from work, Frank finds Scott dead in his hallway. Where do teeth fit in to all of this? That is for you to find out.

What makes this film successful is not just the tricky plot, but also the many moments that make this thriller/mystery also a comedy. Atkins creates an excellent combination of suspense and humor, and right from the start, one realizes this is not a film to be taken with complete seriousness. Once you let some absurdity set in, some scenes are outright hilarious. And much of this has to do with Martin. His reactions and idiosyncrasies cause most of the laughter. Taking the life of a dentist a seemingly low-risk and extremely stable lifestyle “Novocaine” flips this stereotype inside out and upside down, making Frank”s faulty decisions just as addicting as his patient”s drug habit.

One flaw in this film lies in the character”s motivations. Although one knows that Jean (Laura Dern), his fianc, is overly meticulous and a little obsessive at times, Frank displays no discontent with her, openly or privately. In fact, the first few scenes of the film characterize their relationship as quite sweet. Because of this, Frank”s immediate involvement with Susan is not only unusual, but also somewhat doubtful. Aren”t there usually some difficulties or at least a little dissatisfaction within a relationship that can then lead to such behavior? This is not the case with Frank. He has sex with a patient just out of the blue, and she”s really not all that attractive. On the other hand, this action is perhaps part of what makes the film a comedy. His behavior does not make any sense, and his decisions create much of the humor within the film.

There is also a great balance between leaving speculation, yet explaining enough so that things make sense. You won”t be bored. The ending is somewhat satirical and very clever. It is satisfying, and it makes you laugh the way an inside joke would. Frank lets the audience in on his plan, allowing one to follow him through his mess and at the same time, know that he”ll find some way to get out of it.

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