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Overall Rating
3.39

Awesome: 20%
Worth A Look44.44%
Average: 8.89%
Pretty Bad: 7.78%
Total Crap: 18.89%

5 reviews, 60 user ratings


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Death to Smoochy
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by Rob Gonsalves

"Mean and funny, though it cops out a bit at the end."
4 stars

Not even a week after the Oscars, here comes 'Death to Smoochy' to pop Hollywood's balloon of self-satisfaction.

If you groaned when Tom Cruise kicked off the Oscar show by declaring that we all now need Hollywood's brand of fantasy "more than ever," this dark, bitter, frequently outrageous little item is for you. Now more than ever, we need to be questioning what's fed to us -- as news, as official government policy, and as entertainment. Especially entertainment for kids, which often seems to be more about indoctrinating young minds into consumerism than about actual amusement or, perish the thought, education.

Popular kiddie-TV host "Rainbow" Randolph Smiley (Robin Williams) is in trouble: After he's caught taking parental bribes to ensure kids a slot on his show, he falls into disfavor and squalor. The network, casting about for an inarguably "squeaky-clean" replacement for Randolph, settles on the gentle idealist Sheldon Mopes (Edward Norton), who has developed a cheerfully didactic purple-rhino character named Smoochy. A good match for the network's newly prudish standards of ethics -- he has no skeletons in his closet, nor even probably a closet -- Sheldon creates headaches for the fatcats anyway. He can't get with the program -- he doesn't realize that his function is to look stupid, be harmless, and sell products. He actually wants to entertain and enlighten children. Which makes him maybe the biggest deviant among the many deviants recruited as kid's-show hosts by the network.

Directed by that cackling goblin of pop culture Danny DeVito, from an acrid script by Adam Resnick that never met an elaborate string of vituperation it didn't like, Death to Smoochy is only marginally about what its ads suggest -- the dethroned Randolph, crazed with jealousy and rage, brainstorming violent revenge on Sheldon. Even without Randolph, Sheldon has his share of enemies, including a shadowy big boss of the "Parade for Hope" charity (Harvey Fierstein), who wants in on the Smoochy money train. But Sheldon also makes some friends, including network exec Catherine Keener, who turns out to have a soft spot for men in rhino suits, and a punchy ex-boxer (the rambunctiously cartoonish Michael Rispoli) who finds a home on the show as Smoochy's "cousin Moochy." Death to Smoochy turns out to be about the struggle to maintain integrity in the face of success.

The movie is certainly funny enough, particularly when focusing on Edward Norton, who throws everything he's got into the naive, soy-dog-eating Sheldon, or Robin Williams, clearly enjoying this new grubby anti-Patch Adams stage of his career. Sheldon's heartfelt Smoochy songs (including a ditty called "My Stepdad's Not Mean, He's Adjusting") are dead-center whacks at touchy-feely kiddie tunes, and there's a Smoochy-on-Ice number, in tribute to a fallen friend, that manages to be moving and hilarious at the same time. The movie also redefines "dark comedy," literally -- often it appears to have been photographed at midnight during a power outage, the only apparent light source being the characters lit from within by hatred and fury.

Where it falls a little short, though, is in making Sheldon/Smoochy too likable -- we're set up to want a happy ending for him, when we should get an outcome closer to the promise of the title. Adam Resnick's script feels as though it possibly used to be a lot darker in its final act. Putting a happy face on the finale probably won't get many more people in to see the movie, but it won't satisfy those who like their black comedy poisonous to the last drop, either. I'm reminded of how Danny DeVito had the guts to end The War of the Roses with Kathleen Turner rejecting Michael Douglas's final gesture of reconciliation. Such touches are what make twisted comedies live on in memory -- what set them apart. Death to Smoochy is a more conventional affair, with some refreshing mean moments.

I was happy enough with it through most of it, but are we living in such insecure times that even dark, violent comedies now have to end on an up note?

link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=5830&reviewer=416
originally posted: 01/12/07 14:35:41
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User Comments

11/13/11 JP Ward Not "dark". Not "satire". Not "edgy", unless you count odd camera angles. 1 stars
2/20/11 Ark Hilarious, sophisticated, overlooked! U want your little booger eater in the big chair? 5 stars
12/28/09 Dane Youssef Funny. Dark. Surreal. Crazy. Like "The Sopranos" on Nickelodeon. Not for all tastes. 4 stars
7/08/09 *Holy_J@lapeno* Had some very funny parts. Its a dark humor movie people!!!!! 3 stars
4/14/09 Tyler Sciortino Often hilarious, very underrated. 4 stars
12/15/08 PAUL SHORTT COLLAPSES UNDER ITS OWN MEAGER WEIGHT 1 stars
7/20/08 Shaun Wallner Loved it Robin Williams is great! 4 stars
8/01/06 John Aster Habig What is the deal with that crazy b&*^% Nora 4 stars
12/05/05 Mike Collin hasn't a clue about the point. Good satire albeit flawed. 4 stars
8/27/05 ES The ups and downs in this movie are hilarious, note the public burning scene with Williams 4 stars
2/07/05 Elizaveta my kind of humor! 5 stars
1/17/05 Jeff Anderson Forget R. Williams and E. Norton, CATHERINE KEENER SAVES THIS FILM IN A GREAT PERFORMANCE. 3 stars
9/27/04 alicia a riot.. if only they hadn't tied in a "love story" 4 stars
3/13/04 Dan Underated movie, had some great moments. Williams gave an excellent performance. 4 stars
2/26/04 Mae SO funny. 5 stars
12/23/03 the Grinch Death to Sucky Satire 2 stars
12/12/03 Geo78665 A missed opportunity, but decent enough. 3 stars
12/01/03 *A Monotonous Creton Who Loves Tom Hulce* "Death To All Of The Shitheads Who Hate Smoochy!" is more like it 5 stars
10/28/03 me "It's uhhh..it's uhhh...rocketship!" 5 stars
10/06/03 Rachael Harris I loved it and i want the smoochie costume 5 stars
9/26/03 Zeurdoos Great concept worked out nice 4 stars
4/20/03 Dillon Extraordinarily unfunny, uninspired waste of talent & money 1 stars
4/10/03 Jack Bourbon Pointless movie, but I liked Smoochy's singin'. 3 stars
4/04/03 mike danny devito is an incompetant fuck and contaminates any movie hes in. 1 stars
3/16/03 Film Dude Underrated. 4 stars
2/05/03 natasha_theobald great cast, some funny moments 4 stars
1/16/03 Lindsey Repp I want those 2 hours of my life back. 1 stars
1/07/03 B Dubbs I thought it was ok... not great, but ok 4 stars
11/04/02 Gary This review is pure garbage... Got to give hats off to the message the film delivered, and 5 stars
10/30/02 Zelemont Funny... and just weird as hell. 5 stars
10/22/02 brien I wanna do the jiggy ziggy!!!! 5 stars
10/14/02 Uncle Salty See this movie. One more laugh and I would have been convinced Williams was back on crack. 5 stars
10/03/02 Michaelb14 Charity mobsters and big pink rhinos, funny and bizarre 4 stars
10/03/02 Jason I love Norton, I love Williams, I LOVE SMOOCHY 5 stars
10/02/02 Unanon very quoteable in parts... I was surprised how much I enjoyed it. 4 stars
9/28/02 HekiliKoa I don't see this as dark comedy but a step to the side, into the pure bizarre 4 stars
9/22/02 The Bomb 69 how could anyone like this!!! I love dark comedy but I couldn't finish this crap!!! 1 stars
9/21/02 NWO4LIFE "I'm a wicked man, who's done wicked acts" Williams is a riot. 4 stars
9/19/02 Gregory worst in my lifetime and i'm 52 1 stars
9/12/02 laron chapman SUCKS ASS 3 stars
9/10/02 Danielle Ophelia These are the kinds of comedies I miss...sick and vulgar without being simply GROSS. 4 stars
5/16/02 Stephanie Throckmorton A worst-of-both-worlds mixture of sentimentality and irreverence. Abhorrent. 1 stars
5/12/02 Boss Hawg that was the funniest fucking movie i ever saw 5 stars
4/17/02 Sean Herman Requires some suspension of disbelief, and a bit of playing along...but excellent overall. 4 stars
4/14/02 Pete Idiotic crap from start to finish. 1 stars
4/08/02 bullit17 Norton and Williams are great. The rest, ehhh, not so hot. 3 stars
4/08/02 Titus Strange movie, but highly entertaining. 4 stars
4/05/02 Edfink Lombardo The Best Film so far this year! Very dark, very demented, and very very funny! 5 stars
4/03/02 Superdave very funny 4 stars
4/02/02 Raiven Death to DeVito, Death to Williams, I want my 9 dollars back! 1 stars
4/02/02 Banky Edwards fuck! That was a funny movie....I laughed at things I shouldn't have...I'm going to hell! 5 stars
4/01/02 ajayrockrock several laugh-out-loud moments, but it still felt "long". 4 stars
4/01/02 Mister Char brillant, edward norton's character is very strange after him in Fight club 5 stars
4/01/02 teresa Boring at times,some laughs,could not wait for it to end.Comes together at the end.too long 3 stars
4/01/02 matt kierbow Robin Williams is just as funny as he was in good morning vietnam 5 stars
3/31/02 Jamer My expectations were too high, but I still enjoyed it (at the matinee price). 3 stars
3/31/02 brent young a great dark comedy, though it chickens out a few times...worth the ticket $ and more. 4 stars
3/31/02 Film Dude no petzold, this was a good movie 5 stars
3/31/02 Michael petzold this movie was so stupid I think robin williams carrer has down down the **** hole 1 stars
3/29/02 Frankly Amazing movie, cracked out at times, but worth your money. 5 stars
IF YOU'VE SEEN THIS FILM, RATE IT!
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USA
  29-Mar-2002 (R)

UK
  N/A

Australia
  30-May-2002




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