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'Gorgeous' Gorge

[whitespace] Teen pageant comedy serves up a buffet of laughs

By Tracie Broom

A HIGH-OCTANE (literally) faux documentary about Minnesota teen pageant machinations, Drop Dead Gorgeous features an ensemble cast and a heap of deaths and injuries by explosion. Kirsten Dunst tap-dances her way up the rungs of teen pageantry while smarmy supervixen Denise Richards weighs in at a lofty 110 pounds as her rifle-toting competitor. While Kirstie Alley, doughy and vile, is barely watchable as the consummate overbearing pageant mom, two deep breaths of fresh air are provided by the lusty yet maternal Ellen Barkin and the even lustier Alison Janney, one of today's finer supporting actresses. Janney's Loretta is the "sass" of the film.

Drop Dead Gorgeous feels somewhat like Election but comes off a bit goofier, more like a John Waters film than a movie like Rushmore or Fargo. It's no coincidence that it was edited by Janice Hampton, a heavy hitter from Waters' camp. While there is something too obvious about nearly every joke, the film still belongs in the upper echelons of teen black comedy. It's not surprising that the director, Michael Patrick Jann, hails from the sometimes hilarious, sometimes terrible MTV comedy show The State. Most TV sketch-comedy shows suffer from the sounds-better-on-paper syndrome. Luckily, the movie is saved by the fantastic work of cinematographer Michael Spiller, who worked with Hal Hartley. The images are crisp, colorful, and off-kilter, just the way a black comedy should be.

Despite the overworked nature of many of the gags, there are enough brilliant ones to rival the now infamous hair-gel scene in There's Something About Mary. And while many will scream there's no comparison between the two films, I offer these points in Drop Dead Gorgeous' favor: (1) taking the body-manipulation craze to a new height with a molten beer can; (2) the rustling swish of pompoms as Adam West talks into a microphone; (3) Minnesotans' unassuming comfort with hunting-season deaths; and (4) the sweet, dazed expression of an ex-teen princess, hospitalized for anorexia.


Drop Dead Gorgeous (PG-13; 95 min.), directed by Michael Patrick Jann, written by Lona Williams, photographed by Michael Spiller and starring Kirsten Dunst, Denise Richards and Kirstie Alley, opens Friday at the Los Gatos Cinema.

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From the July 22-28, 1999 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

Copyright © 1999 Metro Publishing Inc. Metroactive is affiliated with the Boulevards Network.

For more information about the San Jose/Silicon Valley area, visit sanjose.com.




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