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DVD Review: Drop Dead Gorgeous

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Winning a beauty pageant requires a lot of hard work, dedication, enough intelligence to speak complete sentences, malice aforethought in order to eliminate the competition, and a healthy dose of blind luck.

Just ask Amber Atkins of Mount Rose, Minnesota what she'll need to do to become Miss Minnesota in the run-off for the fiftieth anniversary of Miss Teen Princess America. First of all she'll need to survive the preliminary round in her hometown to win the right to compete at the state finals and from there it would be on to the nationals.

I know putting it that way it doesn't sound like she will even have to raise a sweat, but the reality is a lot trickier. Luckily a documentary film crew was on hand to record the events for posterity. Taking us behind the scenes at the pageant where we are privileged to watch the preparations that take place prior to the big night. We meet all the contestants, watch in horror as one of them gets blown up while riding her tractor, and wonder about the lack of conflict of interest rules that allows the daughter of the head of the organizing committee to compete.

Of course we also get to meet the organizing committee. Good Christians one and all, not like those bra-burning, hairy-legged women from the city you read so much about who are against pageants because they encourage the objectification of women. No sir, they are good Americans out here in Mount Rose, Minnesota who know the value of a pageant. Why the head of the organizing committee was a Miss Mount Rose Teen Princess herself when she was seventeen and she turned out pretty good didn't she? Didn't she?

Oh did I mention that all of this takes place inside of a movie called Drop Dead Gorgeous? I mean the things people do in this movie would never happen in real life, would they? Parents would never attempt to kill off their child's competition in a beauty pageant, or fix the judges so that her kid will come out on top — right?

The two main contenders for the title this year are Becky Leeman (Denise Richards) and Amber Atkins (Kirsten Dunst). It's Becky's mom Gladys (Kirstie Alley) who happens to be the head of the committee and married to the wealthiest man in town. Amber on the other hand lives in a trailer park with her single mom, Annette (Ellen Barkin), who runs a hair salon out of their trailer.

So we're set for the classic poor kid versus rich kid scenario, but if you think I'm going to tell you how it all goes down in the end, you're reading the wrong review. I will say that the expected happens in some very unexpected ways. There are also moments in this movie that can still make me laugh until I'm crying, and that's after seeing it for the fourth time.

The performances are universally brilliant, with Kirstie Alley's being the best by far. She's able to depict Mrs. Leeman as a person with only a veneer of civilization covering a raging fury beneath. Occasionally she'll let the dragon poke its head above water and shoot flames for a second, only to paste her never-changing smile back upon her face like a death mask.

Some of the humour in the movie is pretty broad and gross, but is always handled in a manner that emphasizes the absurd. So while some people may be offended by some of the humour, the majority of us will find it side-splittingly funny. Some of the humour might rely on sight gags, but a lot of it is very intelligent social commentary.

The DVD I picked this up on has both a widescreen and full screen option and allows you to select 5.1 stereo surround sound. There are no special features included, save for short biographies of the four leads. I just wish that some of these re-releases would at least include a complete cast list, so you don't have to try and read the names off the screen.

Drop Dead Gorgeous is a great movie full of wonderful black humour. For a change it's a comedy that doesn't presume its audience will have the mentality of a five-year-old and to my mind that makes it a definite must-own.

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About Richard Marcus

Richard Marcus is the author of two books commissioned by Ulysses Press, "What Will Happen In Eragon IV?" (2009) and "The Unofficial Heroes Of Olympus Companion". Aside from Blogcritics his work has appeared around the world in publications like the German edition of Rolling Stone Magazine and the multilingual web site Qantara.de. He has been writing for Blogcritics.org since 2005 and has published around 1900 articles at the site.