Death to Smoochy
Mortal enemies. Can Smoochy and Rainbow Randolph get along?
dir Danny DeVito
scr Adam Resnik
with Edward Norton, Robin Williams, Catherine Keener, Danny DeVito, Jon Stewart, Harvey Fierstein, Danny Woodburn, Pam Ferris, Michael Rispoli, Vincent Schiavelli, Robert Prosky, Natasha Kinne
release US 29.Mar.02; UK 19.Jan.04 dvd
Warners-FilmFour
02/US 1h50

1 out of 5 stars
R E V I E W   B Y   R I C H   C L I N E
the rhino must die This zany satire of the TV industry features several solid zingers--astute jokes that strike at the heart of the vain performers and suits who create childrens programming. But those are few and far between in a frenzied film that's almost painful to watch. We begin with Rainbow Randolph (Williams) the beloved TV host who loses his show due to some unseemly goings on behind the scenes. He's replaced by squeaky clean Sheldon Mopes (Norton), whose Smoochy the Rhino has kids giddy with glee, even though the show's producer (Keener) can barely contain her disdain. Behind the scenes, TV execs (Stewart), agents (DeVito) and mobsters (Fierstein) are plotting to make a fortune off Smoochy. But Sheldon runs afoul of everyone with his sheer decency. Especially the increasingly bitter and vengeful Randolph.

Deep down inside this choppy mess of a film there's a terrifically vicious satire trying to get out. But as a director DeVito never lets it play--he keeps overloading the film with annoying camera work, over-the-top performances and incessantly wacky production design that undermines any serious point that could be made. It's in the subtle plays on words that the film works best, as well as some hilarious one-liners blurted out at random here and there. Williams wildly overplays Randolph; Norton is just too goody-goody for words; Keener is the only person who could exist in the real world, and she's a brutal cynic. This uneven chaos means that, however reprehensible he may be, Smoochy is easily the most reasonable and likeable character in the film! We want to hate him--to vent all those years of anti-Barney rage. But he's the hero here, so the film refuses to work even on that level. A real disaster.
themes, language, violence cert 15 25.Mar.02

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2002 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall

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