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Overall Rating

Awesome: 20.22%
Worth A Look43.82%
Average: 8.99%
Pretty Bad: 7.87%
Total Crap: 19.1%

5 reviews, 59 user ratings

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Death to Smoochy
[] Buy posters from this movie
by Collin Souter

"Death would be a good start"
1 stars

I saw “Death To Smoochy” in a theater chain known for having colorful caricatures on the walls of famous movie stars. The theater playing “Smoochy” had a caricature of one of my idols: Charlie Chaplin. This caricature has Chaplin perpendicular to the screen, his eyes looking away, almost as if to say, “I can’t watch this.” Even in death, Chaplin echoes my sentiments. I kept looking over at the Little Tramp thinking to myself, “I know how you feel.” This, after all, is the genius who gave us “The Great Dictator,” one of the greatest satires of all time.

But “Smoochy” wouldn’t know satire if it got reamed up its celluloid ass by an angry rhinoceros. It is loud, agonizing and not the least bit charming or unique. It tries to be dark, but ends up being just ugly. It tries to be edgy, but all it can do is swear at you. It tries to be funny, but it misses both the set-ups and the punchlines. Worst of all, it takes a great cast—Edward Norton, Robin Williams, Catherine Keener and Jon Stewart—and completely wastes it. Its mis-fired attempt at satire is actually the least of its problems.

This movie has disaster written all over it from the get-go. Just watch Robin Williams in the opening scene where his character, a kid’s show host not unlike Alan Cumming’s in “Spy Kids,” named Rainbow Randolph sings and dances in a rainbow-colored coat. Surrounding him are little people who, I’m guessing, are supposed to represent the Tele-Tubbies. I have never seen Williams look so uncomfortable or mis-placed in a movie, which is really saying something considering his resume. He looks as though he wants to run off the set screaming. In the very next scene, Williams tries to be the polar opposite: Tough-talking, mean and despicable. This performance, believe it or not, is even worse.

So, what is “Smoochy” about? In essence, it is about nothing. I don’t mean that to be just a snide remark or an attempt at humor. I literally mean this movie is about absolutely nothing. It is not about the important role that entertainers play in the lives of children. It is not about redemption. It is not about how we have lost sight of our humanity through our cynicism. It is not even about good versus evil. This Sahara-sized wasteland of a comedy has absolutely no central theme.

How did this escape all this talent? Danny DeVito took it upon himself to direct it, which means he must have seen something golden in it. DeVito has always been good at dark comedy and finding the essence beneath the surface laughs. “Throw Momma From The Train” had a sweetness to it as well as a moral center. “War of the Roses” told the story of a married couple in the 80s who lose, among other things, complete sight of the romance that once sparked them because of materialism. “Smoochy” has nothing, and Adam Resnick’s incompetent script, or what became of it, shows it.

“Smoochy” stars Edward Norton as Sheldon Mopes, a would-be clown who plays his Raffi-esque anthems in drug clinics to a bunch of heroin addicts. A talent agent, Nora (Catherine Keener), from the now-defunct kids show, of which Rainbow Randolph used to host, finds Sheldon and reluctantly recruits him to be the new host. Why him? Because he has no career and it will not be a problem manipulating him. Sheldon is a simpleton, an earnest do-gooder who puts all of his heart into teaching children and saving the environment. He is not concerned with how much revenue the show brings in or with product tie-ins. In fact, he’d rather not have any of that.

Sheldon becomes Smoochy, a man in a rhinoceros costume a la Barney. But of course, there is a growing conspiracy to bring him down. Randolph, now an angry, pathetic drunk tries to frame Smoochy any way he can. He goes so far as to set up an invite for him to entertain a bunch of kids in a tractor parts warehouse. When the lights go on, though, he sees that he is in fact entertaining a bunch of neo-Nazis. This gets out to the press and now Smoochy has to try and redeem himself and put things right.

The plot gets even more complicated with an ice skating show that Smoochy wants to perform as a benefit. His manager, Burke (Danny DeVito), who used to manage Randolph, would rather he not have so much creative control as to put on a show that won’t make money. Furthermore, a former child star (Vincent Schiavelli) is recruited to assassinate Smoochy at the ice show. Furthermore, the most annoying character in the movie, Spinner (Michael Rispoli), a supposedly loveable retarded man-child wants to co-host with Smoochy, but ends up getting killed in a case of mistaken identity. And, of course, we have what may well be the most forced romantic sub-plot of the last 10 years. Keener hates (Smoochy) until she sees him with his shirt off.

All of this comes off in a directionless and piss-poor attempt at storytelling and satire. What should we take from all this? That people who entertain children are untrustworthy and repulsive? Even the Smoochy character has no moral center, even when he spouts off on heath foods and benefit shows. His show ends up being an autobiographical blatant recount of everything that happened to him in the film, from the Nazi scandal to the murder of Spinner. Imagine Paul Reubins coming back as Pee-Wee Herman and the first thing out of his mouth is, “Gosh, boys and girls, I sure had a rough time the past few years, and here’s why…(Unzips his fly)” Basically, this act brings Smoochy down to everyone else’s level. The point may be that kids have no real role models. If this is the case, why not give us a character worthy of children’s attention?

As far as the performances, Edward Norton makes the movie somewhat tolerable and I sort of enjoyed the vibe he gave off with his character, but this only goes to show that Edward Norton is watchable in ANYTHING. Robin Williams, though I admire him for wanting to branch off from his annoying “Patch Adams” persona, should look elsewhere for material. Even this crap would be beneath the star of “Flubber” and “Jumanji.” And Catherine Keener should know better then to allow herself to be typecast as a sharp-tongued bitch-on-wheels, for which she made herself famous in the Oscar-nominated “Being John Malkovich.” Even Vincent Schiavelli, who shows up in the third act, couldn’t bring a smile to my face. That’s just wrong.

Some have said that this movie will not appeal to those who don’t have a taste for dark humor, that people who only enjoy “safe” movies should just beware. I LOVE dark humor. I enjoyed “Very Bad Things,” “Heathers,” “Man Bites Dog,” and the films of John Waters. But there is nothing, absolutely nothing, dangerous about “Death To Smoochy.” It covers nothing that “There’s Something About Mary,” “Shakes the Clown” or even “Spy Kids” hasn’t covered already. It has “comedic dead zone” written all over it. Its subject might be prime fodder for satire, but it lacks even the smallest words for an essay.

Perhaps next time, DeVito should study the works of Chaplin, Wilder or even Altman before settling on a first-draft screenplay from Adam Resnick, the writer of “Cabin Boy.” Come on, DeVito. What’s the worst that could happen?

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originally posted: 04/02/02 09:03:59
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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
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'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
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  29-Mar-2002 (R)



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