Volume 95, Issue 94

Wednesday, April 3, 2002
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Say YES to Yoko Ono's collection at the AGO

Unfortunately, Smoochy is already dead

Becoming a nightmare

Outside the Box

Care Bear stare causes enjoyment

Britney more savvy than Square

Trail, the Hives and Fellows breathe life into music

Unfortunately, Smoochy is already dead

Death to Smoochy

Starring: Robin Williams, Edward Norton

Directed By: Danny DeVito

Two stars (out of five)

Chad Finkelstein
Gazette Staff

Did you ever see the movie Bowfinger? It had a great cast, an accomplished comedy director, an original story and an always reliable tongue-in-cheek parody of show business as a backdrop.

But it was stupid. Something about it just seemed to be lacking. All of the elements for a great movie were in place, yet the execution came off flaccid.

Gazette File Photo
THIS AIN'T NO MRS. DOUBTFIRE. In Death To Smoochy, Robin Williams plays a vengeful, yet loveable children's television star, Rainbow Randolph.

When watching Death to Smoochy, a new dark comedy in the same vein, those feelings of wasted talent are conjured up all over again.

Smoochy should be good. It stars Robin Williams and Edward Norton, the former one of the few sure things left in Hollywood comedy, the latter on his way to becoming his generation's most capable character actor.

It's directed by Danny DeVito, whose sardonic vision spawned dark comedy treasures like Throw Momma From The Train. And the story involves the corrupt underbelly of backstabbing, fascism and homicide that is kids' television production.

Unfortunately, it just forgot to be funny.

The movie begins as Rainbow Randolph (Williams), a nationally-treasured children's television show host, is charged with embezzlement and subsequently fired. Desperate network execs quickly replace him with the highly moralistic and unbearably ethical Sheldon Mopes (Norton), who performs under the guise of a pink rhino named Smoochy.

The plot then begins to take all sorts of random twists as Smoochy becomes the target of criminally insane Randolph, crooked children's charity groups, selfish producers and smack-addicted hitmen.

This should be humorous. The idea that so much evil and filth can surround a show that is an obvious parody of Barney should come off as clever satire. Everything about it feels like it should be funny, but Smoochy just isn't funny. It lacks a certain energy and instead comes off as irritating.

Not that it's necessarily a bad movie. At times, when Smoochy seems likes it's tried the audience's patience as far as it will go, Williams is thrown in to deliver his trademark schtick and the story is temporarily rejuvenated.

Norton, too, doing his best ah-shucks imitation of Woody Harrelson, is well-cast as the oblivious sap to the politics that threaten to bury him. To appreciate his range as an actor, rent American History X after seeing Smoochy and try to believe it's the same guy.

But DeVito seems to have trouble deciding what kind of movie he's making. It's clear he wanted to make a dark comedy. In fact, it feels like he sat down and listed all of the scenarios he could use that would have people leaving the theatre saying "that was dark."

That's the problem.

It's not that the movie is too dark to be funny. It's just that there's too much going on for it to be funny. To make matters worse, the movie intermittently abandons its cynical intentions and goes for the mundane and redundant – an irrelevant love story, enemies putting their differences aside to fight a greater evil, a happy ending. There's nothing wrong with these devices, they just seem out of place in a movie about homicidal kiddie show hosts.

Smoochy certainly has its moments. It's visually appealing and some parts are hysterical, but it's the one-liners, rather than the movie as a whole, which are funny. As a movie, Death to Smoochy ultimately feels disappointing, jarringly inconsistent and, sadly, annoying.

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Copyright The Gazette 2002