Death to Smoochy is not about killing Barney the purple dinosaur. However, it is about killing A purple dinosaur, and that's close enough to the dream for me!
Death to Smoochy stars Robin Williams as Rainbow Randalf, a corrupt children's television star who's caught taking bribes. So Randalf is off the air leaving network execs scrambling for a replacement. To fill the gap left by Randalf, they bring in Sheldon Mapes, AKA Smoochy the purple dinosaur (Ed Norton), a squeaky clean, overly honest children's entertainer and charity worker. Smoochy is an instant hit, much to the chagrin of the corrupt Randalf and his former beneficiaries. Suddenly, everyone is out to take Smoochy down, leaving the almost painfully well-meaning Smoochy struggling to survive.
The real tragedy is not the corrupt and rotten nature of children's programming, but that such wonderful performers as Williams and Norton should deliver so magnificently in a film that gives them so very little back in return. I can't begin to express how much I've longed for Williams to go back to the sharp edged, wild man comedy that made him famous in the first place. How I've DREAMED of seeing him get out of this crappy, sappy, crying on camera RUT to deliver just a TOUCH of his former insanity. Now he's done it. Robin Williams unfettered. Robin Williams set free! But Director Danny DeVito botches it in his haphazardly constructed mess of a film which not only under uses Williams, but seems to completely forget about him for unforgivably long stretches of film.
Smoochy contains so many moments of pure, evil, comedic JOY that by contrast the mess in between becomes increasingly annoying. Part of the problem is, that Norton's character, while incredibly well acted, is too damn BORING! Were he not the focus of the film, this might be overlooked, but instead of giving more life to Williams funnier, darker, and more exciting Rainbow Randalf character, we end up following around a dumb, talentless, purple dinosaur and his best friend the guitar through the tunnels and trenches of children's television programming! Throw in the Irish mob and a few bloodthirsty charities around some sort of poorly concocted love story, and there you have Death to Smoochy.
Let me see the purple dino get his ass kicked! Give me some sort of coherent story line that focuses more on humor than on Smoochy's crusade to free the world of sugar snacks and teach kids to love their stepparents! That's not funny. It's not even very interesting. It's only in the final act that Rainbow Randalf finally gets his due. But even then, Smoochy craps the bed, opting out for a sappy, happy, everybody be friends ending instead of being the balls to the wall dark comedy it SHOULD have been.
Rainbow Randalf, a retarded boxer, and a few dancing midgets will help carry you through the film in good stead, but the focus of the film is a flop. DeVito ruined a wonderful chance to use the obvious chemistry between Williams and Norton in what could have been one of the funniest dark comedies in recent years; opting instead for a few hearty laughs and a melba toast flick.
Reviewed By: Joshua Tyler