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Death to Smoochy

Starring Robin Williams, Ed Norton, Catherine Keener; Jon Stewart, Danny DeVito
Written by Adam Resnick
Directed by Danny DeVito

IN SHORT: You'll remember the Klunky Wunky dance longer than this klunker. [R for language and sexual references. 110 minutes]

Finally, a movie stew! Yep, just like the sludge that came from momma's pot, here's a movie has lots of ingredients and characters which may/will make you laugh but, when all is said and done, won't have delivered a story any more satisfying than the sludge on the WB. We'd have dissed UPN but even the WWF shows more creativity than this script which, we emphasize, offers absolutely nothing that you should even consider subjecting anyone under the age of fifteen to. Yeah, we know what [R] means. We also know reality.

Some quick background: Half a century ago, give or take a fistful of years, there was a kiddie show host who, when his program was finished and he thought that he was off the air, muttered something like "that should hold the little bastards." His mic was open and he wasn't off the air and he never worked again.

Maybe there are still influential kidlet targeted shows still kicking around in the hinterlands but, ever since Romper Room gave up the ghost, there just ain't that kind of character hosted show (with or without single digit tykes in the audience) around no more. It's a good thing we've got the movies to recreate those golden days so that clever writers can totally screw with the fond memories of those of us old enough to remember the days when we never considered the possibility that our heroes spent their time off screen speaking in four letter obscenities and taking kickbacks from their advertisers and merchandisers. Of course, that kind of thinking could be very funny, in a dark and malevolent sort of way. It could be, and it sometimes is, but that's not what makes Smoochy crap.

Rainbow Randolph (Robin Williams) is the song and dance man who's the most powerful kidhost in the Greatest City in the World. He sings! He dances! He is a a corrupt, smarmy mouthed, fill in the disparaging description, son of a you know what. The kind of guy who would sell preferred placement in his audience for a briefcase full of cold cash slipped under the table at a dark, secluded bar. Quicker than you can read that sentence, Rainbow Randolph is busted and booted from his king of the hill gig on the Kidsnet television network. Network exec Frank Stokey (Jon Stewart) assigns his best man, who happens to be the femme VP of Development Nora Wells (Catherine Keener) to find a replacement with no salacious secrets in his background. She finds Sheldon Mopes (Edward Norton) aka Smoochy who, with a rhino horn pasted to some kind of protective head gear, sings entertaining songs to the clients at a methadone clinic in Coney Island. Mopes is as innocent as the Rhino he portrays. He's totally organic, spikes his OJ with alfalfa juice and spirulina and has no problem engaging strangers in philosophical discussion about the relative importance of Captain Kangaroo and Jesus Christ. Once Smoochy, his Magic Jungle and dancing midget Rhinettes (formerly the Krinkle Kids of Rainbow Randolph's show] hits the Kidsnet in a brand new costume that looks like a pink shag rug wrapped around a polystyrene horn, he becomes the biggest thing since, uh, Rainbow Randolph.

The only problem with Smoochy being clean as a whistle is the fact that everyone around him -- except frigid potential love interest Nora -- is on the take. Stokey is. Rainbow was. Smoochy's new found agent Burke Bennett (Danny DeVito) is. Festival of Hope Ice Show promoter Merv Green ( Harvey Fierstein) is shelling out the shekels and the only upright band of brothers on Smoochy's side is the Irish Mafia, led by a red-haired transsexual named Tommy. The love Smoochy because he's found a job for brain damaged boxing champ (and former governor) Sinner Dunne, who wraps himself in another hunk of carpet and become Moochy, cousin to Smoochy.

We have now reached the point where everyone wants Smoochy dead. Thus the title. It is also the place where frantic action takes the place of any kind of story logic. All the hoo-ha gags you can think of -- letting Robin Williams loose helps flesh out most of 'em -- can't disguise the utter failure to gel of whatever story Adam Resnick wanted to tell. Padding out the proceedings is a lovely ice show coda with Smoochy and Rainbow on wires. a complete waste of time that could better have been spent kicking a black comedy into something that would totally blow your mind.

On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Nine Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to Death to Smoochy, he would have paid . . .


We asked the lady to our left, who was laughing all the way through the film, if she liked it. Her response, backed up by more than enough real folk in the sneak preview we sat through: "No. It was terrible." Rent.

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