Death to Smoochy

Review Date:
Director: Danny DeVito
Writer: Adam Resnick
Producers: Andrew Lazar, Peter MacGregor-Scott
Edward Norton
Robin Williams
Catherine Keener
When Rainbow Randolph is caught accepting payola for his highly rated kid’s TV show, he’s swiftly replaced with a do-good children’s entertainer named Smoochy the Rhino. Randolph isn’t happy with the deal and plots to wreak badness on the man who replaced him. Lots of dark comedy ensues.
First of all, this ain’t a kid’s movie! God forbid some ignorant parents drag their bundles of joy to see the “Barney movie” at the local multiplex over the weekend, and have their kids hear lines like “You just fucked with the wrong Rhino!” (a cute nod to AMERICAN HISTORY X) This movie is a black comedy through and through…Danny DeVito-style. If you’ve enjoyed the man’s previous pokes at the genre in films like THROW MOMMA FROM THE TRAIN and WAR OF THE ROSES, you will likely enjoy this little number as well. Despite the presence of the always-irritating Robin Williams, the film is packed with enough zingers and another great performance by Ed Norton, to make its very original premise and high style, fun to watch. But then again, I’ve always enjoyed “dark humor” so remember that before you take my word for it (the film ain’t for everybody). I actually think that seeing a grown man in a Rhino outfit singing catchy “smack” songs to drug addicts is humorous. Norton is especially wonderful as the naïve, unbelievably idealistic and innocent Smoochy character. The man’s got a little Pee Wee Herman in him, but overall, Norton makes it his own and really has you buying into all of his altruistic ambitions.

Unfortunately, not everyone else in the film is as interesting. DeVito plays a decent shifty agent and Catherine Keener is fine as the producer who starts off as a mega-bitch, but ultimately chills out, but the rest of the characters (and there are a-plenty) didn’t really bring much to the table. As for Robin Williams, aaaaaaaaaah, well…let me tell you that I used to be a fan of this guy until he pushed his “over-the-top” shtick too far. In this film, his character is nothing but over-the-top, manic, spitting words out at 1000 miles per hour, and yet, even though I didn’t appreciate most of his hoopla, he does ultimately come through with enough funny one-liners, to make up for his lack of character development (he’s basically just a “nut” with zero background-thankfully he’s really not all that prominent in the film). Williams also gets to spew enough swear words in this film to make up for any that he might’ve missed in all of his other movies put together. And that’s another cool thing about this movie…it really doesn’t hold back! Yes, there’s a scene that features a “cock cookie” being pulled out before the kids. Yes, there’s a scene in which a man dressed up as a children’s animator gets two bullets in the head, and yes, Nazis ultimately make their way into the world of Smoochy. The flick moves quickly, tosses out plenty of potshots and features an intertwining plotline that asks for quite a bit of attention from its viewer.

Which is where my biggest problem with the film lay. The plotline is overly busy at times and redundant, Williams’ character seemed to have way too much “freedom” for a nutjob and things ultimately ran a little long and weren’t as inspired, as I would have hoped. Less plot, more characterization, less of that really, really annoying character who only screamed as a motivation, might’ve made the film that much better. Buuuuuuut, it’s not every day that you walk into a film whose main plotline revolves around a children’s TV show being surreptitiously run by an organized crime syndicate. A very unique premise, an infectious performance by Ed Norton, plenty of fun dialogue, kooky songs and bright colors make for a groovy black comedy, with unfortunate faults which I for one…was willing to forgive. So do you want the Death of Smoochy?

(c) 2021 Berge Garabedian

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