Death To Smoochy Movie Review

Classic children's television show hosts like Mister Rogers and Barney make great role models for children, but their trite style makes them easy targets for adult jokes. Danny DeVito's latest project, Death to Smoochy, is well-intended with its mockery of children's television and those inane hosts, however it is completely misdirected in its efforts to be funny.

After the obnoxious but popular host Rainbow Randolph (Robin Williams) is caught taking bribes from parents who want their kids on television, network head Frank Stokes (Jon Stewart) pulls the plug on his show. An exhaustive search through the downtrodden Barney wannabes to replace Randolph yields a pink, squeaky-clean rhino named Smoochy (Edward Norton), who becomes an overnight success with the kids despite his preachings of bland politically correct messages to children. Despite Smoochy's best wishes, his boss Nora (Catherine Keener) wants to cash in on the show's newfound success by selling Smoochy-sponsored cereals, cola, and string cheese. Randolph, on the other hand, is hell-bent on making life miserable for the rhino, and Smoochy's crooked agent (Danny DeVito) is busy making backdoor deals trying to sell Smoochy out to the mob.

Death to Smoochy is too convoluted and tedious to retain the interest of its audience or garner their laughs. DeVito relies solely on violence and insults between his characters to gain our laughter. As Randolph, Williams is loud and loathsome as he shouts obscenities and makes penis and potty insults. It is the same comedic shtick we've seen from him in countless other films, but this time it has reached a far cruder terminus. Norton plays a charming Barney-esque Smoochy but his amiable character quickly annoys the audience with his banter for all things pure and wholesome. Real kids watching his show would just change the channel.

Children's television is not about violence, obscenities, or the mob. Death to Smoochy should have instead been geared toward the empty lives of those men who masquerade behind alter egos like Wally the Whale, Rainbow Randolph, and Smoochy the Rhino. But it's the silly things they do on their shows that make them targets for our humor. We couldn't care less about what happens when the cameras are off.

I never thought I would actually find myself cheering for one of these lowly characters but as Death to Smoochy wore on, I wanted the gun-toting whale to somehow put an end to the misery of this movie. Now that's sad!

Danny DeVito pulls out all the stops for Smoochy's DVD release, with nary an apology in sight, even on the commentary track. Outtakes and deleted scenes are uniformly dull, the sole exception being an excised Japanese kiddie show host who takes over after Smoochy is briefly deposed. Hell, I'd rather see an entire movie about that guy than the one they made about these clowns.

At right, children for auction.


Comments

Death To Smoochy Rating

" Terrible "

Rating: R, 2002

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