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Death to Smoochy

  • compiled by Jeffrey Overstreet Copyright Christianity Today International
  • 2002 1 Jan
Death to Smoochy
from Film Forum, 03/28/02

Hoping for better options? Perhaps you are looking forward to the Robin Williams comedy opening next weekend? If so, you might want to think again. Parents especially should take note that Death to Smoochy is not Williams' typical family-friendly comedy. It's a dark, cynical, and violent caper that apparently fails even as that. Mainstream critics are getting early warnings out to audiences concerning the film.

Kirk Honeycutt (Hollywood Reporter) writes that it "is a loud, ugly, irritating movie without any of its satirical salvos hitting a discernible target. A stellar cast consisting of Robin Williams, Edward Norton … and [Danny] DeVito … is over-the-top in shrill performances that are embarrassing. Williams [delivers] the most grating performance of his career. Given the array of talent involved … you have to write this one off to the fact that anyone can have a bad day. But what are the odds that everyone has that bad day on the same day?"

Similarly, Alex Nohe (FilmThreat) declares, "The premise is a comedy cliché. A dirty clown? Robin Williams' performance is one-note and is delivered as if the film was a cartoon. Edward Norton's performance as Smoochy is also uninteresting and uninspiring. Outside of watching [Anastas] Michos' career-making performance as a cinematographer, the only other reason to see this would be to witness the difference between 'funny' and 'trying to be funny.'"

I'll have reactions from the religious press next week.

from Film Forum, 04/04/02

In last week's Film Forum, critics warned readers that the new Robin Williams comedy Death to Smoochy was not quite up to snuff. Now that the film is in wide release, the reviews are pouring in, and most critics are bewildered at how a film loaded with so much talent could fall apart so spectacularly.

Smoochy tells the violent tale of Rainbow Randolph Smiley, who was fired from his post as host of a Barney-like children's television show. Randolph's rage has fermented into devilish plots to bring down his replacement, a simple-minded goof (Edward Norton) who bounces around in a giant purple rhino costume.

A critic at the U.S. Catholic Conference of Bishops says Smoochy "eventually collapses under its own weight, sinking into warped, vicious humor with some gritty violence. After the shock humor and nasty shenanigans are repeated for the nth time … the audience may understandably tune out."

Michael Elliott calls it "an uneven production at its best. Robin Williams' shtick is looking more and more forced while being less and less funny. Because we never really accept him as a kiddie show personality, we are never drawn into one of the major conflicts of the story."

Dan Buck (Relevant Magazine) writes, "Sometimes the actors/directors are so interested in working with each other, they don't really pay much attention to what it is they choose to work on. Unfortunately … ample talent does not a great movie make."

Mainstream critics find the movie dead on arrival. Stephanie Zacharek ( writes, "There's lots of manufactured outlandishness … and yet the movie is simply no fun. As a satire of hype and consumer culture, it fails in the worst way."

"There's no one to root for in this ponderously 'scathing' thriller-farce," complains Owen Glieberman (Entertainment Weekly). "Death to Smoochy tells a moldy-oldie, not-nearly-as-nasty-as-it-thinks-it-is joke. Over and over again."

"It uses four-letter language as if being paid by the word," says Roger Ebert (Chicago Sun-Times). "In all the annals of the movies, few films have been this odd, inexplicable and unpleasant."

Michael Wilmington (Chicago Tribune) also disapproves: "It's so predictably vicious that, after a while, there's no surprise. Death to Smoochy is death to satire … a dark comedy that blows up like an exploding cigar, leaving nothing much behind but smoke, noise and a bad taste."

By the way, Smoochy is in trouble in real life as well … the producers of the film may be in legal trouble with the producers of the Canadian PBS show Ricky's Room. Apparently Smoochy is too similar to the rhino featured on the Ricky show. Smooch's posters show a purple rhino dead, his horn poking through the black tarp thrown over him. This has the potential, reportedly, to traumatize young fans of Ricky's Room.