Remember when it was cool to make fun of Barney and scream “whassup” when charging into a room? Well, with Death to Smoochy, director Danny DeVito seems to hawk jokes left over from ‘90s SNL skits and talk shows that took aim at Mr. Purple. Much like his dino predecessor, Smoochy is “squeaky fucking clean,” which is why he becomes such a hit with the kiddies. As played by Edward Norton, Smoochy has a bit of an edge despite his fondness for wheat grass and almond butter. Before “Rainbow Randolph” (Robin Williams) loses his primo TV gig for selling airtime to uppity parents, Smoochy (Sheldon, outside the fuscia digs) itches to reach an audience outside a Coney Island methadone clinic. Not only is Death to Smoochy late in coming, it amounts to nothing more than a tedious jumble of awkward lighting, aimless satire and cocaine-induced vaudeville courtesy of Mr. Williams. This is not to say that Smoochy is not without its charms. The film’s song and dance numbers (my favorite: Smoochy’s “But My Stepdad Is Not Mean, He’s Just Adjusting”) become acerbic respites from a plot that couldn’t be any less concerned with taking jabs at the wishy-washy children’s entertainment industry. New York City is the film’s dubious backdrop, the pointless stage for a cultural battle that pits crack addicts against network bigwigs. A better, less anxious script would have acknowledged Smoochy’s naïveté and blamed him for abandoning his humanitarianism for the buck. But, even then, Death to Smoochy is too out-of-sync with what it’s trying to poke fun at to ever really have anything worthwhile to say about the responsibility of network television and the spectacle of youth culture. Much like Williams, Death to Smoochy has already reached its expiration date.
- Warner Bros.
- 105 min
- Danny DeVito
- Adam Resnick
- Robin Williams, Edward Norton, Danny DeVito, Jon Stewart, Catherine Keener, Harvey Fierstein, Pam Ferris, Michael Rispoli
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