Death to Smoochy

Rated: R
Runtime: 1 Hour and 41 Minutes

Reviewer: Dale
Grade: D

I wanted to like "Death to Smoochy". I really did. I have been anxiously anticipating this film for several weeks, after all. I was hoping it would come out before I went to Florida so I could see it then. But it didn't, which is probably for the best. I didn't think "Blade 2" was the greatest film of all time, but at least I liked it. I can't say that much for "Smoochy".

It has a great cast: Edward Norton, Robin Williams (okay, he can go either way), Catherine Keener, Danny DeVito, Harvey Fierstien and Jon Stewart. It has a clever concept (imagine, if you will, Pee Wee Herman attempting to kill Barney after his disgrace and Barney's ascendance). It is directed by Danny DeVito, who brought us the viciously dark and utterly hilarious satire "The War of the Roses".

And yet this film is an absolute mess. I blame the script, mainly. It has a couple funny ideas and pokes fun at some very nice things. I loved the bit satirizing the endless merchandising of children's shows. I loved the moment where Smoochy is set up and is the featured entertainer at a Nazi rally. And the ice show/opera organized by Smoochy near the end of the film did draw a couple laughs from me.

But the rest of it is pretty lifeless. Things like the lame relationship which develops between the idealistic kid show host (Norton) and the bitchy producer (Keener) and the character of the boxer who's taken one too many knocks to the head are pretty terrible. The film has about fifteen minutes of solid material stretched over the course of about two hours. It would have made a pretty funny "Saturday Night Live" skit, but it's pretty intolerable at feature film length. 75% of the jokes just die on the screen. Most of the time it's pretty terrible. The dialogue is mostly atrocious. The dark humor is mostly dark but never all that humorous. (Especially when one of the most sympathetic characters is killed viciously and I suspect we were supposed to laugh. That was the lowest point.) The satirical jibes are pretty broad and seldom funny. Some of Smoochy's songs were pretty amusing. There is a song about stepfathers that had me rolling. But the rest of the film is, by and large, pathetic.

Edward Norton starts out doing a pretty good job. But after while, he has nothing to do but look incredulous and innocent and whining about the artistic integrity of his dancing rhino show. A little of that goes a long way. Catherine Keener basically plays a one dimensional version of the character she played in "Being John Malkovich". Danny gives himself nothing to do but act smarmy. But the real embarrassment is Robin Williams. I have never seen him so grating. All he does is swear and go into a rage. Five minutes of that spread throughout the film might have been alright, but it soon gets real annoying real fast. I hope Robin can pull his career out of the toilet, but this ain't gonna help.

How bad is this movie? Pretty friggin bad. Well, let me give you this example: any or all of these characters could have died and I would not have batted an eyelash. In fact, I was hoping that they would, and quickly. It's one of the biggest disappointments in recent cinematic history. Don't bother with it.