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Drop Dead Gorgeous (1999).

September 11, 2007

The Scoop:
This mock documentary covering a teen beauty pageant in a small Minnesota town is a capable satire of both pageant culture and Midwestern provincialism, but ultimately it falls short.

The cast and crew give a good effort across the board, but what really handicaps this film is its mockumentary style. The best mockumentaries out there (from the comedy of “This is Spinal Tap” to the seriousness of “The Blair Witch Project” or “Man Bites Dog”) work because of their spontaneity. “Drop Dead Gorgeous,” on the other hand, is too tightly scripted and its satire too unbelievably over-the-top to be an effective mockumentary. Instead, it would have been better served by a conventional narrative format.

Despite this handicap, though, there are terrific performances from the whole cast (led by Kirsten Dunst, Ellen Barkin and Kirstie Alley) and some great gags (both visual and verbal). Much like Dunst’s character Amber Atkins, this is a little, disadvantaged film that succeeds on effort and charm.

Best Line:
“Hi. I’m Amber Atkins, and I am signing up ’cause two of my favorite persons in the world competed in pageants: my mom and Diane Sawyer. Of course, I want to end up more like Diane Sawyer than my mom.”

Side Note:
Screenwriter Lona Williams, who is also a writer and producer for “The Drew Carey Show,” was a first runner-up in the national Junior Miss competition. She also has a cameo in the movie as a pageant judge.

Companion Viewing:
“Waiting for Guffman” (1996).


Take a Look:
A collection of clips to give you the Cliffs Notes version of the movie. Part one:

And part two:

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