Main cast: Robin Williams (‘Rainbow’ Randolph Smiley), Edward Norton (Sheldon Mopes/Smoochy the Rhino), Catherine Keener (Nora Wells), Danny DeVito (Burke Bennett), Jon Stewart (Marion Frank Stokes), Pam Ferris (Tommy Cotter), Danny Woodburn (Angelo Pike), Michael Rispoli (Spinner Dunn), and Harvey Fierstein (Merv Green)
Director: Danny DeVito
For a movie starring two loathsome clowns that should put to the firing squad alongside Barney the Dinosaur, Death to Smoochy is surprisingly dull and tame for a satire on the family entertainment business. I really hate movies that pretend to be pulling no punches only to end up emphasizing that TV clowns and dinosaurs are good and should be loved, and this movie earns my ire for doing just that.
Robin Williams, overacting as usual (someone should ban him from playing roles that lets him run amok most painfully), plays Rainbow the Dinosaur. Rainbow is busted for accepting illegal payoffs one day, however, and network folks Nora Wells and Marion Stokes find themselves scrambling to find a replacement for the popular Rainbow. In comes Sheldon Mopes whose alter-ego is Smoochy the Purple Rhino. He becomes an instant hit, earning the wrath of Rainbow and several mob bosses. When Sheldon tries to do the right thing (that is, peddle healthy Smoochy snacks instead of Smoochy Twinkies to the kiddies), he earns the ire of the network as well. That is, until he shags Nora and then she’s all about the Pure and Happy Kiddies along with Sheldon. Ugh.
As a satire, this movie doesn’t quite work. Rainbow is pathetically unfunny while Sheldon is so dull as the straightlaced guy that he is overwhelmed by everybody else sharing the scene with him. Since Sheldon is so obviously set up as the one-dimensional good guy, Death to Smoochy comes off more like a preachy one-note track than anything. Mr DeVito is telling me, “Barney is good! Barney is noble! That yellow monster is the one that is evil!”
Nothing works. Scenes that should be over-the-top funny like the lesbian hit squad or the phallic-shaped cookies Rainbow slips into Smoochy’s fun bag for the kids turn out lame and even cringe-inducingly awkward. Catherine Keener is not at all convincing playing a love-struck woman – she always come off as someone who is too smart to fall for a straight-laced whiny bore like Sheldon.
Awkward acting in a timid and unfunny script all make Death to Smoochy a hideous, bloated purple ugly of a movie. It just doesn’t work at any level, I’m afraid.