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Overall Rating

Awesome: 8.11%
Worth A Look56.76%
Average: 5.41%
Pretty Bad: 21.62%
Total Crap: 8.11%

4 reviews, 13 user ratings

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by Jay Seaver

"For girls, a comedy. For guys, a horror movie."
4 stars

Every site I've seen that tags movies by genres lists "Teeth" as a horror movie, but I'm not sure that's really the best description. Sure, if you're a guy, the very concept of vagina dentata is scary as hell, but this film isn't exactly told from a man's perspective in the first place. If this is a horror movie, then it's likely one of the few that teenage girls will like more than their boyfriends.

After a brief prologue that establishes that Dawn (Jess Weixler) had a little extra anatomy downstairs even as a little girl, it fast-forwards to her high school years, where she's a big abstinance proponent, wearing a red promise ring and speaking to other kids about why they should wait. She's got more reason to be afraid of the dangers of unprotected sex than others, of course, though she doesn't know that, and she still has all the urges of any teenager, especially when a cute new boy (Hale Appleman) joins the abstinence club.

What Lichtenstein is up to in Teeth is far from subtle - he's not making any attempt to hide the themes of female sexual empowerment and sex education being far less dangerous than ignorance - but I'm impressed with how he manages to avoid giving unnecessary offense. Dawn's abstinence rallies don't have any specific religious connotations to them, although a biology class used to introduce the concept of mutation goes out of its way to avoid antagonizing creationists. It's necessary for the plot - Dawn has to be unaware of her difference at the start of the film - but it's done in such a way that she doesn't look like a fool.

It's important that we don't look down on Dawn too much, because Weixler is in nearly every scene. She's fun to watch; Dawn's emotions are painted in broad strokes on her face, and Weixler does a fine job of making Dawn's early naïveté charming. Later on, she's able to bring some bone-dry wit and determination when the film calls for her to be more active, and her sadness, guilt, fear, and confusion are always just the right note in between. Weixler's got the knack for making Dawn genuine and earnest despite the crazy things going on around her.

Although I wouldn't necessarily call Teeth a horror movie, Lichtenstein certainly knows how to use the genre's style, though often for humor. It's almost quaint how a gigantic nuclear plant looms over the town, taking up something like three quarters of the screen whenever an establishing shot of Dawn's house is called for and explaining her mutation as well as her mother's cancer. That's as fifties as the monster movie clips that show up occasionally, although the plot owes more to Cronenberg-style body horror. It's also not afraid to throw out some blood and severed body parts.

Mostly, though, it's funny and smart. It doesn't go for the really big laughs as much, but gets a steady stream of smaller ones. Impressively, the biggest ones come at the end, when it's a little harder to chuckle at how Dawn's good-girl behavior contrasts with all the other teenagers. And as much as Dawn's story arc and the points the film is trying to make are clear, Lichtenstein resists his urges to get up on a soapbox.

Getting more overtly political is one of the many ways that "Teeth" could have become a disaster; Lichtenstein and Weixler do fine jobs of side-stepping them. Indeed, they manage something pretty impressive: A dark comedy that's fun to watch, managing to avoid the mean-spiritedness that can sometimes make that sort of movie a chore to watch.

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originally posted: 02/01/08 13:22:20
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2007 Sundance Film Festival For more in the 2007 Sundance Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

1/27/12 Sheller A piece of pink vaginal sludge crap, misandrist hate speech directed at half the population 1 stars
5/01/11 Josie Cotton is a goddess Sick, depraved and funny as hell 5 stars
6/25/09 Kiernan Haney Astonishingly, horrifyingly, amateur and childishly; (Disturbingly enough) bad. 1 stars
3/20/09 ES I enjoyed it, it was just a well done, well thought out flick 4 stars
11/07/08 paul grow up/absolute rubbish 1 stars
8/28/08 Shaun Wallner Bloody Awesome!!! 5 stars
6/06/08 Jessay Okay. the online controversy makes it funnier. 4 stars
5/23/08 specialk Not bad, but far from good. 2 stars
5/16/08 Steve Milo Predictable and plodding. Peter Sobczynski's review is right on. 2 stars
5/13/08 DrDanny Not as good as it could have been 3 stars
2/14/08 Ming I enjoy watching this weird movie and its subjects..It's a little different from other film 3 stars
2/01/08 Sully Ha! 20 yr old dudes one row behind "I'm never having sex again!" haha 5 stars
2/28/07 Jennifer Spry Oh, my good lord! 4 stars
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  18-Jan-2008 (R)
  DVD: 06-May-2008



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