Death to Smoochy

I wanted to LOVE this movie, and there was no way I was going to miss it, because Robin Williams was FINALLY going to play a villain, as I'd been hoping he'd do for years (in other words, he's finally recaptured my interest after a string of interchangeable "misunderstood saint" roles). And with Danny Devito directing? You just know you're in for something twisted...

You probably already know the premise of this one--disgraced kiddie show host (Williams) plots psychotic revenge against the squeaky-clean, Barneyesque "Smoochy the Rhino" character played by Edward Norton for "stealing" his time slot.

The movie's take on the kids shows themselves is simultaneously shocking and hilarious, while in the meantime we're introduced to such unforgettable characters as Spinner, the brain-addled ex-boxer; Harvey Fierstein's crime lord and Vincent Schiavelli's smack-head hitman ("Sorry if I smell like piss... you know how it is"). Meantime, the presence of Catherine Keener keeps forcing BEING JOHN MALKOVICH to mind, though SMOOCHY doesn't quite have what it takes to wallop you like that one did.

And that's just too bad, because this could have been a sick masterpiece. There's plenty of great stuff (the "cookie" scene is an instant, hysterical classic), and there's always the feeling that any character could detonate at any moment... but the film makes one huge, fatal misstep in the final act, leading to one hell of an unsatisfying ending.

Still, I won't spoil it unless you ask me to--because even when characters start pointing in directions they shouldn't, there's still stuff worth watching on the screen: in fact, the climactic "ice show" offered up to "children and junkies" is a jaw-dropper of the first order.

So I still say you should see it--you may wind up lamenting what could have been, but what you get is still subversive enough to appreciate. And speaking of "appreciate," even I was flabbergasted to read Roger Ebert's vicious, half-star lambasting of DEATH TO SMOOCHY. Looks like they did SOMETHING right, after all!

Pin It