Drop Dead Gorgeous

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Drop Dead Gorgeous

If there's one thing An Alan Smithee Film: Burn Hollywood Burn should have taught filmmakers (other than to avoid working with Joe Eszterhas), it's that satire doesn't work if it's stupider than its object of ridicule. And while it's difficult to imagine that a satire of beauty pageants could be that dumb, Drop Dead Gorgeous, filmed like Smithee as a mock documentary, is just that. Kirsten Dunst stars as a wholesome tap-dancer seeking to escape her small Minnesota town by participating in a national beauty pageant. Standing in her way is Denise Richards, whose cutthroat approach to popularity, aided by her pageant-organizing mother (the perennially unwatchable Kirstie Alley), virtually assures her the crown. Screenwriter Lona Williams not only hails from Minnesota, but spent her youth participating in pageants. You wouldn't know it from Drop Dead Gorgeous, however, which seems to have been made by someone who maybe saw Fargo once, or spent some time stranded in the Minneapolis airport. It's wrong to expect too much verisimilitude from a movie that so clearly strives to be over-the-top, but it's also pointless to spend an hour and a half ridiculing a Midwest existence that, while it may have some tangential resemblance to the real world, is primarily of the film's own creation. It doesn't help that there's not a character in Dead that doesn't reveal everything about him or herself in his or her first five seconds onscreen. A pageant judge acts lecherous at first, then proceeds to spend the remainder of the film doing the precisely the same thing and, when finding beauty pageants and Midwest folkways targets too difficult, Dead trots out a fat retarded character to run into things. It's like a cross between Heathers and Waiting For Guffman, had those movies been made by morons, for morons, and the cinematic equivalent of cow-tipping, only less graceful.