Copyright 1999-2002 3BlackChicks Enterprises™. All Rights Reserved.

Bams' review of
Death To Smoochy


Death To Smoochy (2002)
Rated R; running time 109 minutes
Studio: Warner Bros.
Genre: Comedy
Seen at: Celebration Cinema (Lansing, Michigan)
Official site:
IMDB site:
Written by: Adam Resnick
Directed by: Danny DeVito
Cast: Robin Williams, Edward Norton, Catherine Keener, Danny DeVito, Harvey Fierstein, Jon Stewart, Pam Ferris, Michael Rispoli, Danny Woodburn

Review Copyright Rose Cooper, 2002

(click here to skip to this movie's rating)

I try to avoid reading reviews of movies I plan on critiquing until I've already written my review, because I don't want to be influenced by other opinions in my writing. Of course, in staying on-line as much as I do, it's difficult to avoid such things; so in spite of my best intentions, I'd heard a lot of negative talk about Death To Smoochy before I got a chance to watch it - including a mention or three about the bad review Roger Ebert gave it.

Generally, I love me some Ebert, but in the case of Death To Smoochy, his negative evaluation missed the mark. Though "Smooch" has more than its fair share of dead spots, this movie is what South Park: Bigger, Longer, And Uncut would've been if Cartman And The Boys were adults. And, uh, alive.

THE STORY (WARNING: **spoilers contained below**)
Once upon a time, Rainbow Randolph (Robin Williams) was a demigod on the TV network KidsNet; the star of the children's show named after him, Rainbow was adored by the kiddies, and the many "Rainbow Randolph" products his persona inspired made beaucoup bucks for the network and its executives. But one day, Randy got greedy; he accepted a bribe and got cold busted, and KidsNet didn't love him anymore. Network execs Frank Stokes (Jon Stewart) and Nora Wells (Catherine Keener) quickly replace Rainbow Randolph with The Bastard Son Of Barney: Smoochy The Fuchsia Rhinoceros (Edward Norton), created by Sheldon Mopes (Edward Norton).

Randy is incensed, and plots to rid the world of the Rhino. But he's not the only one who wants to see Harm come to Smoochy: Nora has Issues with men in big animal suits; Tommy Cotter (Pam Ferris) and her Irish gang insist on Sheldon allowing her dimwitted cousin Spinner (Michael Rispoli) on his show; and Sheldon's new agent, Burke (Danny DeVito) plays both sides against the middle as the representative of the Parade Of Hope "charity" and its suspicious president, Merv Green (Harvey Fierstein).

In spite of the negative buzz, I went in to Death To Smoochy hoping to see Robin Williams in full-out manic mode - and got my wish. I know some folks love to dis Robin's mania, but I find his zany humor quite appealing. It worked, here, because the Robin Williams persona fit perfectly into the body of his character. I cannot imagine anyone else playing Rainbow Randolph but Williams...which is to say, I was down with Randy.

But though Williams' name is first in the credits, Edward Norton Owned this movie. As good a dramatic actor as he is, Norton played the funniest straight-man I've seen in a long time. His decision to play Sheldon and Smoochy head-on, rather than just mocking this large Barneyesque target, was a good one. Sheldon - especially in Smoochy-mode - had to be as sincere a character as his real-life counterparts appear to be on those children's programs; and in this, Norton hit the bullseye. Hell, I might buy the soundtrack just to hear him sing the Stepdad song again.

Danny DeVito is one of few directors whose work I easily Recognize whenever I see it, even before I see his name on a marquee. Just as in his previous War Of The Roses (of which I'm guessing I'm The Only One who loved it), Death To Smoochy exhibits trademark DeVito signs of a mind somewhat warped by dark comedy, though still firmly planted in mainstream Hollywood. I wish he was more radical and less "company man"-oriented; but still, as far as he could stretch it, DeVito's obvious sarcasm about the business in which he works, was put to good use in "Smoochy".

Death To Smoochy is far from great; it almost lost me by the halfway mark with its repetitiveness, length, and introduction of way too many characters (though Michael Rispoli as Spinner/Moochy did eventually win me over). I was able to roll with most of the movie's flaws, as long as they didn't stomp on my enjoyment of The Good Stuff. One hump I couldn't get over, though, was the evolution of Nora from pleasurably venomous Uber-Bitch - constantly ragging on Sheldon's audacity to be breathing the same air as she - to her Obligatory transformation to Sheldon's Warm Place To Put It.

Being Obligatory, I suppose I should've expected it, even in a DeVito dark comedy; but I was so hoping to be wrong this time. But Warm Place aside, I walked away from Death To Smoochy humming its silly song parodies and grinning about what I had just seen. I reckon that's good enough for me.

Yeah, I know it's Fashionable to playa-hate on Robin Williams these days; but as usual, I'm no fashion plate. Thanks to Williams' unbridled mania, Edward Norton's wit and comedic timing, and director Danny DeVito's unflinching snarkastic eye, Death To Smoochy hit more than it missed. And what's not to like about a movie with a "children's" song that includes the line "My stepdad's not mean, he's just adjusting"?

By the way, check out the "Smoochy" official website. It requires the Flash plug-in - technology for which I usually avoid a website - but it's one of the few movie websites that follows the movie's groove in theme, so it also gets the greenlight stamp of approval.


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And that's the way I see it.

Rose "Bams" Cooper
3BlackChicks Review™
Copyright Rose Cooper, 2002
EMAIL:    ICQ: 7760005

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More 3BlackChicks™ review(s) for this week:
(movies reviewed week of 3/29/02):
Bams' reviews:
The Rookie | Death To Smoochy

The Diva's reviews:
Panic Room

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