Wednesday, January 30, 2008


Snapping Gyro

By Odienator
Teeth is a flick about a chick with choppers in her chocha. With a concept like this, you'd hardly expect the filmmakers to take this premise as seriously as they do. It’s a pretentious affair, with a first act that takes unrewarded swipes at abstinence-only programs, and a third act that lazily drags the film to its final punchline. Writer-director Mitchell Lichtenstein never finds the right note for this Vagina Monologue, sapping much of the fun out of the film in the process.

He punctuates the film with gory dismemberment, but he smothers the money shots with a constant need to justify his actions and their reasons. This is a movie that screams for a B-movie director with a sense of camp and/or terror, not a guy so terrified of his premise that he won’t even show the monster in his monster movie. I went in expecting an exercise in over-the-top Grand Guignol and walked out somewhat disgusted by Teeth’s missed opportunities and lack of a consistent tone. For all the disembodied dicks the MPAA conveniently missed when they rated this film R, Teeth is surprisingly without balls.

Dawn (a very game Jess Weixler) is part of a dysfunctional blended family living in the shadow of a nuclear reactor. Her stepbrother Brad (John Hensley) is a pierced terror who abuses his girlfriends and mooches off his father and stepmother. Brad resents Dawn because he wants to sleep with her but can’t because they are “related.” He also dislikes her because, during a game of “I’ll show you mine if you show me yours,” Dawn’s “yours” bites his finger.

Dawn is also the leader of an abstinence-only group, a dropped plotline whose Citizen Ruth-style potential is never mined. During one of her meetings, she finds herself drawn to Tobey (Hale Appleman), a fellow who, in the world of sexual activity, has stroked but not inhaled. Dawn has done nothing with her goodies, for if she did, she’d have realized that she has incisors inside her. Tobey finds this out the hard way when, after apologizing for knocking Dawn unconscious while trying to rape her, decides to continue raping her anyway. Tobey winds up dickless, drowned and dead. Dawn freaks out, wondering if this is what’s supposed to happen when you have sex.

So far, so good. But Dawn, like the film, doesn’t even bother to look in her secret box. How can a film be about female empowerment if it’s too afraid to have its heroine merely investigate her own femininity? It treats it with repulsion, not curiosity. Even the men in the dentata myth want it, no matter how nasty it turns out to be. In his attempt to be reverent for fear of misogyny, Lichtenstein kills all suspension of disbelief. If you (to use Matt Seitz’s term) de-cockified some guy with your punany, wouldn’t you be inclined to examine what’s going on in there? Dawn never does, yet later in the film, she inexplicably and suddenly figures out how to control her snapping gyro thanks to a man. Give me a break.

Teeth has nowhere to go once Dawn realizes she’s an inadvertent murderess, and its sharp right turn toward revenge drama is as abrupt as it is underwritten. Dawn meets another guy Ryan (Ashley Springer) who seems like a nice kid but who, for screenplay convenience, turns out to be a doomed to be dickless dude. Her pervert gynecologist also gets a big surprise while investigating the crack of Dawn. As for her stepbrother, well never mind, but when you see this scene, you’ll realize just how much a missed opportunity Teeth is.

Teeth, like its victims, is mercifully short. Weixler must be commended for doing her best to bring Dawn to life. I wish the film had either been a major exploitation quickie or, in its present incarnation, had the guts to give me a woman coping with the real problems a flytrap coochie. What Mary Harron or Stuart Gordon could have done with this picture! Hell, even crazy-ass Catherine Breillat would have crafted a more interesting, quirkier, and more fearless film than what’s on the screen.

Early in the film, Dawn’s class gets a censored sex-ed book. The vagina drawing is hidden by a huge gold star. That’s the perfect metaphor for Teeth.


Great - and hilarious - review! I completely agree with you on wishing that a Stuart Gordon type director would have had a chance with this material.
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