Death to Smoochy (2002)
Directed by: Danny DeVito Rated: R Runtime: 1 hr. 49 mins.
Studio: Warner Brothers Pictures Screenwriter: Adam Resnick
Cast: Robin Williams, Edward Norton, Catherine Keener, Jon Stewart, Danny Woodburn
Every country has a form of children’s television shows that are loved and hated alike. In America, we had Lamb Chop, Blue’s Clues, Sesame Street, Mr. Rogers, The Bozo Show, and ugh….Barney, to name a few. Each of them garnered a lot of money from merchandise and events in their day. The performers/actors of each of these shows had to live within certain expectations too. They were the face of popular shows geared towards the youngest demographics, after all. (Yes, I know, Sesame Street is still on). It’s a satirical twist to those norms that Death to Smoochy comes from.
That twist is totally believable! Greed is very much a part of any outlet that makes gobs of money. Rainbow Randolph (Robin Williams) is a foul-mouthed extortionist who headlines a popular children’s TV show in Death to Smoochy. His greed is his downfall. Leading the studio to replace him with Smoochy the Rhino (Edward Norton), a squeaky clean replacement who is ethically untouchable.
Robin Williams is a rut of an actor, which many people adore. Personally, I’d like to not think of Mrs. Doubtfire in my head while hearing him do his “voices” in this film at times, but I digress. Still, Williams gives a humorously outlandish and vulgar performance as Randolph, who tries to reclaim his status. In contrast, Norton’s take on Sheldon Mopes/Smoochy displays humor and wit, showing another side of his acting chops.
The film just dives right into the plot and continues in a way that no backstory is required. Thirty-seconds into the movie and you understand the setup and tone.
The difference in tone and style between Randolph and Sheldon’s shows is a paradigm shift. Other greedy parties don’t appreciate when Sheldon/Smoochy become the new hit and take measures to get their slice of the action back. Those attempts parallel Randolph’s desire to dethrone Smoochy and get his time slot back. These outlets create tension and pace that moves the film along with dark humor along the way.
There is an old clip on YouTube called “Rainbow” kids rude programme. I’m pretty sure it’s from the U.K. that was made and never aired, nor was it meant to be. Still, I wondered if somebody attached to this film saw it and got their inspiration for Death to Smoochy from it. Ideas for projects can come from bizarre places at times.
In 2002 I saw Death to Smoochy when I was in college and remembered that I loved it, so I decided to watch it again for the first time in forever. I had to rent it from a streaming service, which is annoying when a film is this old. It cost $50 million to make and only earned around $8.3 million at the box office. It tanked! A-list casting can’t save every script, yet it got mixed reviews from those who saw it. Death to Smoochy was intentionally not marketed to any type of viewer demographic.
Death to Smoochy is a dark comedy best watched, if at all, on one’s couch while working past a hangover. I liked it the first time around, and it was still watchable this time, but I laughed less. Maybe it’s me and my nostalgic moment, but I can’t recommend putting this movie on your watchlist as long as you have to pay to rent it.
—a pen lady