DROP DEAD GORGEOUS
Release Date: July 23, 1999
Starring: Kirstie Alley, Ellen Barkin,
Kirsten Dunst, Denise
Richards, Allison Janney, &
Runtime: 87 minutes
Distributor: New Line Cinema
Director: Michael Patrick Jann
Producer: Judy Hofflund & Gavin Polone
Writer: Lona Williams
Address Comments To:
Mount Rose, Minnesota is having a teenage beauty pageant. Mount Rose is a typical farming community in the heartland of America, complete with rich folk manipulating everything that happens, naïve middle class immigrants and poor white trash. All are vying for the big prize, a ticket out of town, which in this case takes the form of a college scholarship and trying out for the national pageants. The pageant is being sponsored by the Sarah Rose Cosmetics Company, which doesn't care for anything but promoting its products (a trait that sounds a lot like the producers of this movie).
DROP DEAD GORGEOUS begins as a film crew arrives at Mount Rose to make a documentary on the making of the pageant. The crew interviews Gladys Leeman (Kirstie Alley), rich, a former pageant winner, President of the Mount Rose Civil Serviettes, honorable member of the Lutheran Sisterhood Gun Club and mother of Becky Leeman (Denise Richards), the spoiled, self-absorbed front runner. One by one, through the eyes of the camera crew, the audience is introduced to the rest of the contestants who will demonstrate such incredible talent skills as lip synching, animal calls and interpretive sign language. The intended funny twist, however, is that this is not just a teenage beauty pageant, but rather a no holds barred, win at all costs contest showing the ugly side of middle-America, as well as America itself (which has the face of conservative values, capitalism, gun clubs, and religion).
As the documentary crew interviews multiply, so also do the dead bodies, which start arriving at the local funeral home, where Becky's main opponent Amber Atkins (Kirsten Durst) works part time as a make-up artist for the dead. Amber is smart, beautiful, emulates liberal journalism icon "Dianne Sawyer" as her idol, and hopes to do the same type of work some day. Even more ominously than that, she stands in the way of Becky's success in the upcoming contest.
The preparation for the pageant goes into high gear. The first item of the day is the selection of the judges. Among them is a hardware store owner with a retarded brother (who performs the only innocent humor of the lot) and a local pervert, who drools at anything female that breathes. Meanwhile, the lovely teenage nominees are being eliminated left and right, literally speaking. Even Amber's loving mother Annette (Ellen Barkin) cannot avoid the carnage as her trailer mysteriously blows up. Annette is rushed to the hospital with her can of beer fused tightly to her fingers. Though Amber makes it through the contest alive, Becky wins nevertheless. However, in an unexpected twist of divine justice, the "Mexican" made float she rides on during her triumphant parade through town catches fire and goes up in a ball of flames with Becky on it.
At that point, the movie should have been over, but regrettably, it mercilessly plods on with Amber going to the nationals and rooming at the "Airport Howard Johnson." There, all the contestants suffer food poisoning from a shellfish buffet and the audience is treated to a multilevel vomiting visual extravaganza. Now, isn't that funny? Yet, the story continues, and, suffice it to say, Amber lives to compete another day.
DROP DEAD GORGEOUS has the seeds of a good movie comedy. The experiences of writer Lona Williams as a former teenage Junior Miss Pageant contestant could have given the audience an enlightening, funny insight into this slice of Americana. (Kirstie Alley, too, has said she has participated in beauty pageants.) Indeed, making mere girls prance around, dress up and jump through hoops deserves a little ribbing, but this politically correct movie is so bent on unfairly demonizing those groups, that fine performances by most of the cast are lost by the wayside. Of particular offensive note is a sacrilegious dance number that Becky performs in the contest using an effigy of Jesus Christ as a prop. Also offensive is the characterization of a former pageant winner as an anorexic hospital patient losing her hair. For this alone, families will want to run away from DROP DEAD GORGEOUS.
Like the recently released ELECTION, this movie endorses secretly removing one's competition, but in this case it is actual murder! As for any social or moral redeeming values to DROP DEAD GORGEOUS, there seem to be zero!