By Lisa Schwarzbaum
Updated July 23, 1999 at 04:00 AM EDT

Satire can withstand a lot of abuse before it wilts into mockery, especially when the subject is something as rich as a teen beauty pageant in heartland America. A cheap cut-glass tiara of a booby prize, then, goes to Drop Dead Gorgeous for messing up so utterly against the delectable Smile and The Positively True Adventures of the Alleged Texas Cheerleader-Murdering Mom. In this graceless mockumentary, fussily directed by Michael Patrick Jann (MTV’s The State) from a script by Lona Williams, the battle between rich-bitch Becky (Denise Richards) and trailer-park cutie Amber (Kirsten Dunst) extends to their stereotyped mamas, as Becky’s conniving stage mother (Kirstie Alley, made to look horrible) is pitted against Amber’s frowsy ma (Ellen Barkin, made to look even horribler).

The entire state of post-Fargo Minnesota is heaped with ridicule. But the ugliest scorn is reserved for the girls who compete and the unlovely older women who guide them. As a low-rent neighbor who supports Amber, Allison Janney (10 Things I Hate About You) is required to look foolish too, but the unstinting actress, once again, at least turns a sow’s ear of a role into an interesting macrame bag of a character. D

Drop Dead Gorgeous

  • Movie
  • PG-13
  • Michael Patrick Jann