As a snarky little satire about beauty pageants, Drop Dead Gorgeous doesn’t have much new to say but says it with gusto. The movie, in the guise of a documentary, follows the nasty connivings in a small, fictional Minnesota town during the local American Teen Princess pageant. Everyone knows that the fix is in for Becky Leeman (Richards), whose ex-beauty-queen mom (Alley) is running the pageant and whose businessman dad (Sam McMurray) is sponsoring it. Still, townies hope that perky, poor girl Amber Atkins (Dunst) will upset snooty, rich Becky for the crown.
The movie is too long by a third, but most of the performances are sharp, with Alley doing a gloriously malicious turn as the murderous mom. First-time director Michael Patrick Jann (MTV’s The State) shows a snappy touch, ably building on a maliciously knowing screenplay by Lona Williams. An ex-producer on ABC’s The Drew Carey Show, Williams was herself a first runner-up at the national Junior Miss Pageant. (PG-13)
Bottom Line: Wins for talent, if not congeniality