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With: Kirsten Dunst, Denise Richards, Kirstie Alley, Ellen Barkin, Allison Janney, Brittany Murphy, William Sasso, Amy Adams
Written by: Lona Williams
Directed by: Michael Patrick Jann
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for irreverent and crude humor, sex-related material and language
Running Time: 97
Date: 07/09/1999

Drop Dead Gorgeous (1999)

2 Stars (out of 4)

Beauty Meanies

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Like Hirokazu Kore-eda's After Life, another film from the 1999 San Francisco International Film Festival, Drop Dead Gorgeous, has to do with a film crew, but these memories aren't so lovely. Written by Lona Williams and directed by Michael Patrick Jann, Drop Dead Gorgeous is a fake documentary about a beauty competition in Mount Rose, Minnesota, where the characters talk like they live in Joel and Ethan Coen's Fargo. The major competitors are Rebecca 'Becky' Ann Leeman (Denise Richards) and Amber Atkins (Kirsten Dunst) -- both very easy on the eyes). Becky's mother (Kirstie Alley) was a big winner once upon a time and now heads the festival committee. Amber's mother was a loser years ago and now sucks down brewskis in a trailer. On top of that drama some unknown person is killing off the competitors.

Drop Dead Gorgeous wants to join the parade of summer gross-out movies now too numerous to mention. A good deal of the jokes here are funny. But the fake documentary format bites itself in the rear making the situations seem forced, the actors seem too rehearsed, and the suspense nonexistent; it's pretty easy to figure out who the killer is. The documentary "crew" picks up all kinds of privileged moments that only a fiction crew could have staged. (Other fake docs like Bob Roberts and Waiting for Guffman make the same mistakes. This Is Spinal Tap is still the template for this format, and the reigning champ.) Perhaps if Drop Dead Gorgeous had been presented as straight fiction it would have worked. But as is it's a disappointment.

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