Drop Dead Gorgeous, the new black comedy about beauty pageants, is set in Minnesota. But are Minnesotans laughing?

The surprising answer: Well, a little more than, say, New York film critics.

Like Fargo, the 1996 black comedy partially set in the frozen tundra of Brainerd, Minnesota, Drop Dead is rife with "you betchas," "yahs" and jibes about Midwestern cuisine.

But Fargo came first and won Oscars. Drop Dead, which opened Friday, came second and was drop-kicked by most reviewers.

With Fargo, says Minneapolis Star Tribune critic Jeff Strickler, the film "was made by native Minnesotans [directors Joel and Ethan Coen] and there was the sense they were laughing with us and not so much at us."

That latter, is exactly what Drop Dead stands accused of--at least by The New York Times. The comedy, Janet Maslin writes, "manages to load up on stereotypes [and] sneer smugly at Minnesota..."

Maslin's Gotham colleague Jack Mathews, of the New York Daily News, was equally unamused on behalf of the Gopher State.

"This is the smirking, big-city view of rural America that Hollywood covets," Mathews writes.

But in the land of the allegedly besmirched, there's no call for heads of studio chiefs. Reviews in the state's two leading papers, the Star Tribune and the St. Paul Pioneer Press, were among the most glowing (which, granted, isn't saying much.)

An "often viciously funny" comedy, Chris Hewitt judges in the Pioneer Press, even while noting, "dumb, fat, racist Minnesotans are all over the place."

The Star Tribune's Strickler advises fellow residents not to take the movie personally. "And, while you're at it, don't take it seriously," he writes.

Strickler says he was alarmed by the movie's trailer, showcasing star Kirstie Alley's ultra-thick Fargo-speak. Readers voiced concerns, too.

But the effect of the movie, taken as a whole, isn't that offensive--to Minnesotans anyway, he says. (Strickler could have done with fewer jokes about mental retardation.)

"Everything is exaggerated," he says.

The film's writer, Drew Carey Show staffer Lona Williams, this week defended her take on Minnesota (her native state) in the Star Tribune.

"How will Minnesotans judge this?," asked the former Junior Miss hopeful from Rosemount. "How do New Yorkers judge Woody Allen movies that make everyone look neurotic?"

Fortunately, for Williams, her former neighbors are taking it with a greater equanimity than type-A Big Apple types.

As Sarah Van Tassel, a recent high-school graduate, wrote in the Star Tribune about the film, "It's equal-opportunity, insulting surrounding states such as Iowa and Wisconsin, as well."

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