Directed By Michael Patrick Jann
New Line Cinema
By: Eric G.
Drop Dead Gorgeous is not nearly as artful or cerebral as Fargo is, but it is almost as funny despite many forced and easy laughs. Both films take place in the small-town Midwest and both films share a similar strain of black humor. Denise Richards is not by any means a stretch for the picture’s namesake, and she plays her part with the same evil bitchiness that she embodied in Wild Things, coming dangerously close to typecasting herself. Kirsten Dunst is the film’s saving grace as a do-gooder teen with simple aspirations to make her low-life, white-trash mother (Ellen Barkin) proud and maybe to escape trailer park life. Jann’s direction gives the film a silly jaunt as we follow a pseudo-documentary of a small town beauty pageant that turns out to be life threatening for its participants.
With films like There’s Something About Mary paving the way, Drop Dead Gorgeous jumps on the bandwagon of poking fun at taboo subjects like eating disorders and retarded people- something that would have sent ultra-politically correct Hollywood into a frenzy just a few years ago. The film never takes itself seriously for a second, which is to its credit. It’s a non-stop barrage of silly, satirical hijinks that usually hit the target. Only occasionally does it stoop to really cheap tricks to get laughs like the puking scene at the end. Even Kirstie Alley is tolerable as the beauty pageant organizer and former winner despite the unbearable timbre of her voice.
Several cameo appearances add fuel to the film’s fire like former Batman star Adam West, playing himself as a washed up actor, hosting lame beauty pageants. Nora Dunn has a brief turn as a modeling agency scout that seems like one of her old skits from Saturday Night Live. The movie’s premise seems completely far-fetched until you realize that things like this happen all the time. How many cheesy, truth-based Monday night movies have been made about mother’s who murder cheerleaders just to get their daughters on the team? Drop Dead Gorgeous isn’t breaking any new ground; in fact it’s pretty much riding the coattails of films like Fargo and There’s Something About Mary, but it’s still a hilariously biting satire of our own trash TV culture.