Death to Smoochy
When a children's show icon becomes embroiled in a scandal, he loses everything. Instead of blaming himself, he decides to exact revenge on his replacement--a giant pink rhinoceros named Smoochy.
Randolph Smiley (Robin Williams) is on top of his game--he's the eponymous star of the highest rated kid's TV show, Rainbow Randolph, has his own Times Square billboard and makes lots of money. Until, that is, he gets caught taking bribes from stage parents. Suddenly, he becomes the social pariah of the millennium and of course gets canned. Losing Rainbow Randolph, however, leaves the network in a bind. Now they have to find a squeaky-clean replacement pronto. Enter Sheldon Mopes (Edward Norton) and his alter-ego Smoochy, an abnormally large fuschia rhino who sings children's songs about kicking drug habits and stepdads who aren't mean but simply adjusting. With his naivete, unwavering ethics and unflagging ambition to make the world a better place, he becomes the new number one show. Sheldon soon learns, however, how cutthroat children's entertainment can be, as the powers that be try to corrupt his ideals. Meanwhile, a homeless Randolph makes it his number-one priority to destroy the bastard who stole his life. Who's going to get Smoochy first, the corrupt businessmen or crazy Rainbow Randy? Stay tuned...
When you hear the Smoochy cast list--Williams, Danny DeVito, Jon Stewart, Catherine Keener--you automatically think mondo laughs. Added to the list is Norton, who may not be known for his comedic talents but certainly adds credibility to the movie, especially given that he rarely picks bad scripts. Luckily, no one disappoints. Norton plays the straight guy with aplomb and shines brilliantly when singing his sappy yet lesson-filled songs. Keener, whom we haven't seen since her Oscar-nominated turn in Being John Malkovich, is also a standout as the jaded development VP who falls for Sheldon's sweet manner. She has an uncanny way of delivering lines that bite to the bone. And then there's Williams--as always, he has extraordinary moments of sheer hilarity in the film. This isn't one of those films where the comedian has to attempt to act or simply be reined in by the director (as some have done) to give a good performance. Director DeVito (who also plays the greedy agent) is wise enough to simply turn the camera on the comedian and let him go. Just wish we could have seen more of him.
Ever wonder what it would be like to kill Barney? We're betting DeVito thought about it quite often--and things never turn out good for that purple dinosaur. The premise of Smoochy is one of the funnier ones in recent memory and seems to follow the dark comedic path DeVito has chosen in his other directorial efforts, including War of the Roses and Throw Momma From the Train. Unfortunately, Smoochy doesn't quite hold up to its hype (or its trailers) because basically it focuses on the wrong character. It's got some great moments, granted, especially when Smoochy is on his show. But instead of being about Randy's obsession to do away with his replacement, the film chooses to follow Mopes and deal with the dirty business of making a kid's show, which appears to involve the Mob (whatever). Smoochy would have been a lot funnier if Randolph could have finally succeeded in his quest, instead of getting all sappy.
As a skewed look at the darker side of children's television, Smoochy delivers enough laughs to keep its head above water--barely.