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(1999) (Kirsten Dunst, Denise Richards) (PG-13)

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Comedy: Some teens from a small Minnesota town compete in the local beauty pageant where they do whatever it takes to win.
In the small town of Mount Rose, Minnesota, the Sarah Rose Cosmetics American Teen Princess beauty pageant is a big deal. Hosted by former winner Gladys Leeman (KIRSTIE ALLEY) who's accompanied by her assistant, Iris (MINDY STERLING), the pageant has drawn the entries of several local girls. Among them is Gladys' daughter, Becky (DENISE RICHARDS), a pretty, but spoiled rich girl who's been groomed for years to win and has the poise and confidence of a true champion.

Across town, there's Amber Atkins (KIRSTEN DUNST) who appears to be Becky's biggest competitor. A sweet girl who lives with her mom, Annette (ELLEN BARKIN), in their trailer home, Amber dreams of being the next Dianne Sawyer, but currently spends her time working two jobs, one washing dishes at school, the other applying makeup to the deceased at the local funeral home.

Among the other competitors are Lisa Swenson (BRITTANY MURPHY), whose New York- based brother is a gay cross-dresser, Leslie Miller (AMY ADAMS), a school cheerleader, and various other young women, each with their own unique talents. Although the contestants seemingly get along with one another, as the competition draws near ,strange events begin occurring. One girl dies in a farm explosion, while another "accident" sends Amber's mom to the hospital, causing her best friend, Loretta (ALLISON JANNEY), to be Amber's surrogate coach.

As the girls rehearse for their big night, the team of three judges get ready, including Harold Vilmes (MICHAEL McSHANE), a rather large local store owner with an equally large and seemingly somewhat mentally challenged adult son, Hank (WILL SASSO), as well as middle- aged John Dough (MATT MALLOY) who denies having a thing for the young women . With more odd events continuing to occur, everyone begins to suspect and worry that someone is going out of their way to eliminate the competition.

If they're fans of anyone in the cast, beauty pageants and/or satirical comedies, they just might.
For irreverent and crude humor, sex-related material and language.
  • KIRSTIE ALLEY plays the pageant coordinator and mother of a current contestant, thus ensuring that she'll do whatever it takes to make sure her daughter wins.
  • DENISE RICHARDS plays her spoiled daughter who's artificially pleasant when it comes to anything pageant related, but otherwise is a mean and snobby teen.
  • KIRSTEN DUNST plays a young and sweet contestant who plays by the rules and briefly cusses, but that's due to stress.
  • ELLEN BARKIN plays her trailer home mom who drinks and smokes.
  • ALLISON JANNEY plays her friend who similarly drinks and smokes while helping Amber with the pageant.


    OUR TAKE: 7.5 out of 10
    A common adage -- as well as a title of a past and now resurrected TV show -- is that "kids say the darndest things." Well, truth be told, sometimes their parents do the darndest things, often in the misguided hopes of achieving glory through their offspring that they could never attain themselves.

    The result? Kids pushed to compete in sports when they don't want to or who are forced into acting or modeling when they're not ready. The silliest or most heinous, however, -- depending on how you view such matters -- are the parents who push their little girls into beauty pageants.

    While the participants in the dark but often charmingly hilarious "Drop Dead Gorgeous" are teens and no longer tykes, the aim of the film is to scathe the entire pageant industry and for the most part it wonderfully succeeds. From the amusing opening with Adam "Batman" West to the Mary Tyler Moore-ish appropriate ending, this black comedy influenced "mockumentary" is even funnier since it focuses on a small Minnesotan pageant instead of a better-known national one.

    Accompanied by the stereotypical but still funny accents and phrases such as "Yah, you betcha," the film literally oozes small town charm and eccentricity, but never forces it on the audience. The effect seems effortless, but is clearly a sign of clever writing and keen observational humor and best of all, works right from the beginning.

    As such, the film is filled with fun little moments such as the town of Mount Rose proudly displaying one of those old Chamber of Commerce signs stating that the oldest living Lutheran lives there (despite the fact that she's dead), and a character, dismayed by a certain lack of parking, states that the Mall of America should certainly be accompanied by the Parking Lot of America. Then there are the others who wonder if the sight of more video cameras means they're on the TV show, "Cops," again.

    All of those moments -- and there are plenty of them -- have a nice cumulative effect of building a serious case of the giggles amongst viewers. At times, I found myself -- along with most of the audience -- laughing the hardest I've done in quite some time (probably since parts of last year's "There's Something About Mary").

    In fact, the film continues in the line of edgy and occasionally scatological humor that "Mary" brought back into vogue. While there's nothing quite as outrageous here -- although a mass vomiting scene set to the music from "2001: A Space Odyssey" is indeed quite funny in its own unique context -- the film certainly can't be considered a traditional comedy.

    Although the picture does run out of gas and material as it draws toward its conclusion -- which goes on for a few too many superfluous scenes -- for the most part it is quite funny and irreverent right from start to finish.

    While some many not find all of the black comedy to their liking -- such as recurring shots of a smoking and drinking pregnant teen -- there are so many other moments present to offset those that either don't work or may be offensive that it doesn't really matter.

    From the tap dancing makeup artist who works at the local funeral home (that's currently busy due to it being hunting season and all) to the Lutheran Sisterhood Gun Club and a contestant's dramatic monologue featuring -- of all things -- dialogue from "Soylent Green," the witty satire is sharp and runs throughout most of the film.

    Of course, there are also jabs at the pageant industry itself. While this isn't the first film to skewer this subject (1989's "Miss Firecracker" with Holly Hunter already did it) and the 1993 TV movie "The Positively True Adventures of the Alleged Texas Cheerleader-Murdering Mom" (also starring Hunter, but this time as the mom) generally let loose on the deranged parent set and their obsession with having their children win, the combination of pageant satire and the rest of the film's often hilarious material make the overall proceedings quite enjoyable.

    The film's casting is inspired and most of the performers are quite good and/or dead on for what's asked of them. While Kirsten Dunst ("Small Soldiers," "Jumanji") nicely plays the likeable heroine, it's Denise Richards ("Wild Things," "Starship Troopers") who perfectly satirizes the stereotypical pageant contestant. With the plastered on and creepily fake smile and clearly forced cheerfulness obviously hiding her otherwise snobby rich girl aura, Richards plays the character just right.

    As her obsessed mother, Kirstie Alley ("For Richer or Poorer," TV's "Veronica's Closet") does a decent job, but unfortunately becomes more irritating and annoying than funny as the story progresses. Faring much better is Allison Janney ("Primary Colors," "Big Night") as Amber's surrogate mom and especially Ellen Barkin ("Sea of Love," "The Big Easy) in a delightful comedic turn as a trailer park inhabitant who literally always has a beer can in her hand (you'll have to see the film to really understand that).

    Supporting performances are decent, from all of the other performers inhabiting the remaining contestants to Will Sasso (TV's "Mad TV") as the town "idiot" who's obviously destined to elicit both the most laughs and the ire of more politically correct viewers.

    That pretty much sums of the film as well. While some may not appreciate the black and crude humor that obviously owes some reverence to the Farrelly brothers (and even "borrows" an arm gag from their pre-"Mary" film, "Kingpin"), everyone else will probably find the film quite silly and/or downright hilarious. We did, and thus give "Drop Dead Gorgeous" a 7.5 out of 10.

    The following is a brief summary of the content found in this PG-13 rated comedy. Profanity is heavy due to several uses of the "f" word, along with other profanities and colorful phrases. While everything is played in a black comedy/satirical vein, both the bad attitudes and violence categories receive extreme ratings due to several people being killed in the name of making sure contestants are eliminated from the competition.

    More politically correct viewers may also take offense at the many politically incorrect jokes and sources of humor that are present throughout the film. A great deal of smoking and drinking are also present, while some sexual material and jokes also occur at various times. Beyond that, the remaining categories are mostly void of any other major objectionable material. As always, however, should you still be concerned about the film's appropriateness, we suggest that you take a closer look at the listed content.

  • Iris makes a hand gesture to suggest that the local minister is a drinker.
  • Annette walks in with a beer in her hand.
  • Becky's father has a drink and then shows the camera crew his fancy liquor "cabinet" (inside a globe) and offers a drink to the cameraman. During the interview he returns with a fresh drink.
  • We see Hank in the background of a shot apparently having just ingested fumes from a spray can and brown paper bag.
  • Loretta drinks a beer.
  • We see a melted and partially charred beer can now stuck in Annette's burned hand.
  • Loretta drinks again.
  • A few people have drinks in a bar.
  • Loretta gives Amber a drink, saying that her mom wanted her to have it (due to pageant related tensions/problems), but Amber doesn't believe her and Loretta takes it back (while drinking a beer).
  • Becky's father drinks from a flask at the competition.
  • A pregnant student in the girls' bathroom drinks from a brown paper bag.
  • Loretta tells the camera crew, "Want some shots? I'm buying..."
  • A guy at a bar drinks.
  • Two pageant coordinators drink shots of liquor and we then see that they've had several other drinks as well (and seem somewhat tipsy).
  • A woman with hooks for a hand uses them to puncture a beer can to open it.
  • We see some dead bodies in a funeral home, most of which are just dead, but one has some dried blood on his head from a bullet hole wound, while another shows many presumed autopsy stitches on his chest.
  • A former pageant winner wears a large apron that has slaughterhouse blood all over it (her hands are bloody too) while talking about pork products.
  • As Amber uses a hair brush on the previous year's winner (who's hospitalized for anorexia), a big clump of hair comes out of the girl's head.
  • We see Annette's severely burned lower arm and hand that is melted/constricted around a beer can (and remains this way for many scenes).
  • We see one pageant contestant throw up and then all of them follow suit, many from overhanging balconies or floors opening out onto an atrium (all from food poisoning). Others also vomit.
  • All of the following is presented in a black comedy style, and thus isn't meant to be taken completely seriously (in the way certain characters or events are displayed).
  • The person responsible for the deaths, accidents and other not-so-nice behavior (stealing Amber's costume, etc...) obviously has both. In addition, Amber gets a photo of one of the victims with the message "You're next" written on the back.
  • Gladys is a transparently not so nice and clearly conceited rich woman who will do anything to make sure her daughter follows in her victorious beauty pageant footsteps.
  • Her daughter, Becky, is a spoiled rich girl who puts on a fake air when having anything to do with the pageant and intensely dislikes Amber.
  • Gladys parks in a handicapped parking space at a mall and says she'll move if a "cripple" comes along.
  • Some Asian viewers may take offense at the portrayal of an Asian couple who have moved to Minnesota to live the American lifestyle (their behavior and accents are somewhat played for laughs). That father calls his natural daughter a "stupid retard" for not speaking in English.
  • Some viewers may take offense at intentional laughs coming from a girl who wants to use sign language in an interpretive dance, a pregnant student both smoking and drinking, a wheelchair- bound anorexic girl being wheeled about the stage while lip-syncing to her pageant winning song from the previous year, or a somewhat mentally challenged and overweight adult son's quirky behavior being used for laughs as well as that of a person with a newly acquired prosthetic arm.
  • Becky's father, when trying to name Sammy Davis, Jr., describes him as "that black guy" with a glass eye, and then moments later says, "Yeah, that Jew." Later, he tells some people in his furniture store, "Don't Jew me down" (about the prices) and then pats his female assistant on the butt. Later, he also says that he's done some work in Mexico and jokingly says that he paid the workers in tacos.
  • Jokes are made about one of the judges, a middle-aged man who's always denying being interested in the teenage girls, but is seen ogling them or carrying his video camera to record them practicing.
  • Some viewers may take offense at Becky doing a musical number during the talent competition where she dances with a life-size Jesus on the cross to the tune of "Can't Take My Eyes Off You."
  • Some kids make fun of Hank whose clothing is caught in a vehicle's door.
  • Distraught contestants trash the outside of a corporation that's closed -- knocking down the signs, breaking windows, etc...
  • We see some dead bodies in a funeral home, most of which are just dead, but one has some dried blood on his head from a bullet hole wound, while another shows many presumed autopsy stitches on his chest (the sight of them may be unsettling to some viewers).
  • Amber returns home to find that there's been a fire at her trailer park (but no one was killed).
  • Although it's played for laughs, a float catches on fire and then quickly burns and explodes, killing the person on it (we don't see their death or body).
  • Handguns/Rifles/Shotguns: Seen in or being fired at a gun club where some of the girls are members of the Lutheran Sisterhood Gun Club. As such, we see Becky firing a handgun at a target (and later holding a rifle), while someone else readies a shotgun for target practice.
  • Weapon: Used to shoot a student in the head (not seen, although we see the victim in the funeral home with a small bullet hole in his head).
  • Toy pistols: Used by a contestant during her talent performance dressed like a cowgirl.
  • Rifle: Briefly used by a sniper to shoot at people (and a reporter is non-graphically hit).
  • Phrases: "For f*ck's sake," "Sh*thouse," "Takes a sh*t," "Piece of sh*t," "D*cking around," "Beautiful as a whore's ass," "Bitch," "Cripple," "Retard," "Stupid retard," "Shut your fly trap," "Shut your pie hole," "Whore," "Ass wipe," "Freakin'," "Shut up," "Snotty," "You cow," "Losers," "Why don't you take a picture, it lasts longer" and "Sweet ass."
  • We see Hank in the background of a shot apparently having just ingested fumes from a spray can and brown paper bag.
  • Becky's father adjusts his crotch while in his store and then pats his female assistant on her butt.
  • Loretta gives "the finger" to other contestants who are staring at Amber.
  • None.
  • None.
  • None.
  • At least 2 "f" words, 10 "s" words, 1 slang term using male genitals ("d*ck"), 16 asses (1 written), 7 craps, 6 damns, 5 hells, 2 S.O.B.s, and 17 uses of "Oh my God," 7 uses of "G-damn," 6 of "Oh God," 3 of "God," 2 each of "Jesus Christ," "Jesus" and "For Christ's sakes" and 1 use each of "Oh Sweet Jesus," "Jesus H. Christ," "For God's sakes" and "Honest to God" as exclamations.
  • Gladys mentions that "you won't find a backroom in our video store" (referring to adult videos in others).
  • A competitor shows some cleavage and makes out with her boyfriend. She then wraps her legs up around his waist (while he stands) and he then lowers her to the floor to continue making out with her.
  • It's mentioned that one of the competitor's brothers is gay and we see several photos of him where he's dressed in drag like various female performers.
  • We see an obviously pregnant student.
  • Giving her daughter some advice about success down the road, Annette tells Amber that if they want you to take your top off, get the money first.
  • One of the judges, a middle-aged man, obviously gets off on watching these pretty teenage girls, despite his vehement objections that he doesn't. In one scene, we see him sensually rubbing the front of a vehicle while watching the girls dance.
  • Annette briefly thinks Amber is pregnant (she's not).
  • Some contestants complain about Hank's fly being open or later his pants being off while he watches the girls (but we don't see anything).
  • Based on what a contestant says about not yet telling her boyfriend about something, others think she's pregnant (but she's not).
  • Some contestants show a bit of cleavage, while one walks past the camera backstage wearing extremely high cut bikini underwear (or perhaps a real bikini).
  • Gladys shows some cleavage.
  • We see one of the contestants passionately making out with her boyfriend in the background of a shot.
  • One of the girls asks if Amber could cover up (with makeup) the hickeys on her neck, the bites on her ears, and then goes on to say that although no one can see them, similar marks on the inside of her thighs (we don't see any of them).
  • Gladys says about her husband's furniture, "It's as fake as my orgasms."
  • Loretta shows some cleavage.
  • A new contestant shows lots of cleavage in her outfit.
  • A young woman comments that another contestant "did Adam West" (had sex with him -- although a disclaimer then appears on the screen saying West couldn't be reached for comment).
  • On TV and addressing Annette, Loretta proudly says, "I got some" (had sex).
  • There are some quick photos of one of the contestants as an exotic dancer in a club, but nothing that's too revealing.
  • Loretta and John (a judge) smoke more than five times each, while Annette and Becky's father almost smoke as much and the pageant coordinator smokes several times. Some girls in the bathroom (including an obviously pregnant one)and other various miscellaneous characters do the same, while we see Gladys giving a female prisoner a cigarette in jail.
  • Amber briefly mentions her father not being around.
  • The beauty pageant industry and whether parents should force their young daughters into such competitions.
  • The black comedy/satirical violence and bad attitudes present in the film.
  • All of the following is played out in a black comedy/satirical mode and not meant to be presented in a realistic fashion.
  • A farm equipment explosion kills one contestant (we only see the fireball).
  • The sound man is accidently knocked to the floor.
  • Harold's somewhat mentally challenged adult son slaps him on the back of the head during an interview, the two then briefly struggle and Harold tries to hit his son with a snow shovel.
  • We see a male student in a funeral home who's been shot in the head (officially labeled as a hunting accident, but it's probably not).
  • A trailer home burns to the ground and injures Annette.
  • Annette hits Amber with the beer can clutched in her hand (from a fire that melted it there) when she thinks Amber is quitting.
  • A large light falls to the stage and strikes a contestant, knocking her out and later reportedly causing her to be deaf.
  • Amber and Becky get into a brief pushing/hair pulling struggle backstage.
  • A judge attack Hank after being annoyed by him, and they struggle on the floor.
  • A float catches on fire and then explodes, killing the person on it (we don't see the person, just the flames and explosion).
  • Distraught contestants trash the outside of a corporation that's closed -- knocking down the signs, breaking windows, etc...
  • A sniper shoots at people and a reporter is non-graphically hit.

  • Reviewed June 30, 1999 / July 23, 1999

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