Death to Smoochy

  • Penis Jokes!
  • The Actor of Our Generation (?)
  • The F-Word!


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Directed by The Little Guy. "Oh. When you said, 'Show me that little, purple monster', this is what I thought you meant."
Death to "Director" Danny DeVito and to His Adult-Version of "Shrek."
 People make bad movies all of the time. But those people usually aren't Robin Williams, Edward Norton, or Catherine Keener. Yet they are all here in Danny DeVito's Death to Smoochy. I suppose the fact that so many talented people are involved with this makes me hate the film all the much more. Maybe I shouldn't have been so surprised since I can't think of a single Danny DeVito-directed film that I actually enjoyed sitting through. One of the biggest problems he has is that he makes a great deal of assumptions about the expectations and the intelligence of the audience. For instance, he assumed that if he made Mamma nasty enough in Throw Mamma From the Train, the more likely the audience would merely accept the fact that she deserved to die. Well, he made it clear that her son took care of her for a reason so everyone just kind of watched the film unfold in kind of this purgatory between dark humor and insanity. In the case of Death to Smoochy, there are alot of deadly assumptions made for the "sake" of the audience.

The Premise: Death to Smoochy is about the rivalry of two clowns: Rainbow Randolf (Robin Williams) and Smoochy the Rhino (Edward Norton). Randolf is an alcoholic who has a top-rated television show for kids. He also has a habit of taking bribes in order for parents to get their kids on his show. He gets busted by the Feds and loses his job. His television network, Kidnet, needs a new star. It's up to Catherine Keener as Nora Welles and Jon Stewart to find the replacement. They find Leonard Mopes, an actor who dresses up as a big purple rhino and plays at rehab clinics. He's a really nice guy who wants to help people off of drugs. Once he gets into the world of CHILDREN'S ENTERTAINMENT, he learns that it's a VERY SLEAZY and TWISTED place. Even the charities set up for children are ran like the Mafia. Isn't that insane! I mean, the film assumes that the very nature of children personalities would be funny if they all shot up heroin and had sexual escapades. Is this really that shocking of a bare-boned premise when this country has had to witness Fatty Arbuckle and Pee-Wee Hermann? It obviously is to DeVito and screenwriter Adam Resnick. They put no more effort into making these people sympathetic or evil. They're in animal costumes and they talk about penises! What more could one possibly want!

The Humor Level: While we're on the subject of penises, the next assumption seemingly is that whenever Robin Williams opens his mouth, it's automatically funny. And sometimes that is the case. But here, it's f-word this and f-word that. But he's a CHILDREN'S ENTERTAINMENT PERSONALITY! It's funny that he swears because they don't swear on those shows! He even says: "My balls are on fire" when he spills coffee on himself. He even makes a dildo-shaped cookie and Smoochy pulls it out in front of a bunch of kids. Wow! I hope those little actors don't need therapy later because that is WHACKY! I'm of the philosophy that just because someone says a dirty word does not necessarily make the phrase or the point any funnier. It has to have something behind it. Here, the only thing behind it is the filmmaker's idiotic notion that we will find this funny just because someone in a Rainbow outfit is saying it. I don't know, people were laughing in the theater I saw it in but I would put good money on the fact that these people also laughed when Shrek wiped his ass with the fairy tale book. In that movie, adults could pass off the fact that it was for kids and that it was only slightly skewered for adults. Well, Death to Smoochy is for adults and so the fact that this is funny to them only proves that they are total morons who still haven't taken their heads out of the fifth-grade guttter.

The Motivation: The plot of Death to Smoochy revolves around Randolf's attempt to rid the world of Smoochy. But why? Randolf was busted by the feds and the network simply found Mopes without any caniving or backstabbing. Why couldn't he take his vengeance out on the government or on the networks? I guess Death to Network Executives or Death to the FBI weren't very WHACKY titles. And why did the screenplay have to make Smoochy such a nice guy? He wants to help kids and make the world a safer place. He's harmless and he's a good sport. Perhaps DeVito thought he was a total schlub and we would want to see him suffer because he's not untrusting enough. Well, that didn't work so it's really awkward to see Smoochy stand up in front of a bunch of Neo-Nazi's after being tricked by Randolf. A CHILDREN'S TV PERSONALITY WITH NAZIS. THAT'S SO CRAZY! Ho-ho. And it's even kind of nice to see Leonard fall in love with Nora. But then, DeVito has to turn her character and turn her into the network executive slut that's been done since Network. Seeing an actress like Keener be trapped in such a demeaning and useless role feels equally as awkward.

In the end, it's all pretty awkward. There are some okay camera tricks employed and I do remember laughing exactly one time. (In case one ends up seeing this, I won't ruin that one glimmer of comedy.) The tone of the film is entirely wrong, the humor level remains at the level that would be more shocking to a member of Smoochy's audience, and a lot of great actors end up getting totally wasted. I did give me comfort that Williams is at least attempting to branch away from "Hey I'm an Academy Award winner. Love Me!" roles, but he'll have to stop reverting back to the impulse of playing the clown again and again. He probably assumes that that is what the audience wants. I hope next time, the people behind Death to Smoochy assume that they can't do anymore damage and they just stay home.

The Pitch:
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1/2 Barney
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1/2 Shakes the Clown
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1 Death to Smooch
See It For:
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Robin, in a cocaine-fueled flashback, makes Robert Altman "owe up" for Popeye.