Death To Smoochy
Director: Danny DeVito
Writer(s): Adam Resnick
Category: Comedy
Runtime: 109 min
Country: USA / UK / Germany
Language: English
Year: 2002
Tagline: Get ready for an unexpected hit.

Plot: Danny DeVito directs this dark comedy set in the dog-eat-dog world of children’s television. Kids’ show star Rainbow Randolph (Robin Williams) gets fired over a bribery scandal and is replaced by Smoochy (Edward Norton) — a puffy, purple rhinoceros. When Randolph discovers Smoochy is having an affair with Randolph’s ex-lover Nora (Catherine Keener), a top programming executive at the network, he plots his revenge.

Review: This is an odd little film. It’s funny, but in an off-center kind of way. If you found Fight Club funny (which I thought it was in parts), then you’ll probably find this movie funny as well. Not that they are the same in context, just that their humor is similar in the oblique way at which they approach it.

This is clearly a dark comedy that envelopes itself into a style that is much like the children’s television shows they produce. In fact, I’d venture to say that the style of this film is almost comic book in nature. The lighting is very stark and solid in it’s choice of colors and the characters are almost ripped from the pages of a Dick Tracy comic book, albeit a more modern one.

Robin Williams gives a very funny performance as a homo-repressed over-the-top children’s TV host and delivers his comedy in his characteristic rapid fire delivery. It’s classic Robin Williams. Edward Norton shows us yet another side to his character acting skills as a meek and mild, cleaner than clean wannabe children’s television host. His opening scene performing at a heroin clinic is just classic, “Let’s face it. Big junkies come from little junkies. We gotta nip this in the bud, Burke!”. Yet Norton plays Smoochy with a bit of a hidden dark edge that keeps you thinking he’s going to pop at any moment. It just keeps the energy of the film always at a high rev.

Another notable performance was Jon Stewart. He plays Marion Frank Stokes, a producer and overall sleaze. He did surprisingly well considering he was acting opposite Edward Norton and Robin Williams! Some of the best parts though are in the out takes at are in the “Special Features” section of the DVD. I encourage you to watch the out takes if for nothing else than to see him hold is improv ground again Williams. I always knew Jon was fast, but he’s really able to go toe-to-toe with one of the masters of improv. Some really funny stuff.

Overall, Death To Smoochy is Mr. Rogers, meets The Simpsons, meets Ren and Stimpy. It’s a farcical romp through a very distorted view of children’s television that will have you laughing in that fun, but un-comfortable way. Especially when you hear Smoochy sing…

Smoochy: [Singing] He slams the door He stomps his feet He sends me to bed with zilch to eat But my stepdad’s not mean he’s just adjusting.

Smoochy: [Speaking] So you see, kids, a stepfather is just like a new puppy. He needs love and care. Remember though, if your stepdad is EVER abusive towards YOU or MOMMY, what’s the magic numbers?

Kids: 9-1-1!

Smoochy: Thaaaaaaat’s right!”

My Rating: 3 Stars (3 out of 5 stars)
My IMDB Review: [link]