Sunday, April 2, 2017


Welcome to another installment of the TRASH BIN, where we watch the worst movies Hollywood has to offer, according to the critics, and give you our thoughts, good or bad. This week we're looking at a comedy about corruption, organized crime, and children's television...2002's DEATH TO SMOOCHY.

Howdy fellow film freaks, Robert here. If you come to it with your head in the right, slightly twisted place, Death to Smoochy is just the right mix of WTF left-field weirdness and endearing sincerity. Reminiscent of the short-lived Fox sitcom Greg the Bunny, which portrayed the puppet stars of a children's TV show as lowbrow working stiffs, Death to Smoochy is a story born of wild imaginings about what kinds of shady backroom shenanigans might go on behind the scenes in the outwardly saccharine world of children's TV programming.

Rainbow Randolph (Robin Williams, firing on all cylinders here) was the king of kiddie TV until he was caught taking under-the-table bribes in a police sting operation. Desperate to move past the resulting scandal, KidNet TV, Randolph's former employer, attempts to find replacement talent of a suitable moral character. Unfortunately, all the established actors are either junkies or perverts. So, in desperation, they recruit an obscure performer named Sheldon Mopes (Edward Norton), alias: "Smoochy the Rhino." Sheldon is the last of the True Believers, convinced that a person can still make a difference in the world with a friendly smile and a positive attitude. Norton plays the character as such a sweet, innocent guy that you can't help but buy into his passion for his craft, humble though it may be when we first meet him.

Sheldon jumps into his big break with both feet, but quickly learns that children's television isn't the happy, friendly place it's cracked up to be as he runs afoul of jaded producers, crooked agents, and The Parade of Hope, an organized crime racket masquerading as a children's charity. And then there's Rainbow Randolph, who wants to regain his lost glory and his lost time slot, now occupied by the Smoochy show.

Death to Smoochy is one of those rare movies where the right talent comes together at the right time and magic happens. This movie has my favorite performances from both Robin Williams and Ed Norton, but everyone involved is worth watching. Danny DiVito appears as an agent seeking to tempt Sheldon away from the straight and narrow. Merv Green, the head of The Parade of Hope, is played by Harvey Fierstein, and his heavy-smoker-rasp of a voice only serves to make the character even more menacing. Character actor Michael Rispoli plays former professional boxer and permanently punch-drunk restaurateur Spinner Dunn. That name didn't mean a whole lot to me either, until I found out Rispoli later appeared as phone sex magnate Frank Griga in 2013's Pain and Gain, and now I will never be able to look at that movie the same way again.

There's a lot to like about Death to Smoochy: the way it keeps ratcheting up the pressure on Sheldon, but never becomes stressful for the audience, the way it goes to some really cynical places but only becomes funnier as a result, and the way so much of the movie will stick with you afterward. Mention "the cookie scene" to anyone who's seen the movie and no further explanation will be necessary.

Death to Smoochy is silly and sweet and twisted and sometimes downright corny, and not quite like any other comedy you've seen lately. Despite the unfortunate lack of love this movie has gotten since its release, you can still find it on DVD or on your favorite video rental service. If you decide to give it a try, I envy the first viewing experience you're about to have.

Death to Smoochy is rated R for language and sexual references.


Rotten Tomatoes: 42%
Metacritic Score: 38
Roger Ebert: 0.5/4

Robert's Score: 10/10

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