Danny DeVito has always been known for his bleak dark humor that seems to catch people off guard. With deeply demented characters like his squabbling couple in “War of the Roses” or a man who asks a friend to simply “Throw Momma from the Train”, DeVito finds a way to turn some our darker moments into comic relief.
DeVito has built his career around playing the devilish short guy who is never to be trusted. He has mastered that kind of character threw his early years on the TV series “Taxi” all the way till today with “Death to Smoochy”. DeVito returns to creating mayhem behind the camera as well with “Smoochy”.
In “Smoochy”, Robin Williams stars as Rainbow Randolph Smiley who happens to have the biggest children’s show since Pee Wee’s Playhouse. Randolph is living it up in the lap of luxury until he becomes involved in an FBI sting that nabs the star for taking bribes. Randolph’s career is over and he becomes homeless.
The network which used to support “The Rainbow Randolph Show” is in trouble and they are searching for a star to replace the tarnished Randolph. They turn to a pink rhinoceros named Smoochy. Smoochy is a character by its creator Sheldon Mopes (Edward Norton). Sheldon is squeaky clean and the network really has their share of problems with him even though his show quickly becomes #1. Things intensify when Randolph seeks revenge on Smoochy and a corrupt crime lord named Merv Green (Harvey Fierstein) wants to corrupt Sheldon. Who wants Smoochy dead more? Will Sheldon ever stand up for himself?
“Death to Smoochy” should be placed along side the other DeVito classics and marks a return to DeVito’s comedic form. Like his other comedies, “Smoochy” is dark and very funny. There are a lot of classic one-liners you will be repeating to your friends as you depart the theatre.
I loved the quick direction with an almost “film-noir” feel throughout the film. It was just so interesting to watch from the “film noir” angle. The mirror-images of “noir” settings placed against the brightness of kiddie television. Can you imagine a movie like “Double Indemnity” having a pink rhino all of a sudden appear? I also liked how subtly DeVito revealed villain Fierstein. It was so “noir” but so clever at the same time.
Robin Williams begins his journey into playing twisted characters as he takes on Randolph. Since the “Smoochy” is a dark-satire, Williams is able to use his over the top comedic acting style to capture the funny but demented side of Randolph.
I liked Williams a lot as Randolph and it was different to see him playing in such a dark comedy. There are incidents where Williams’s portrayal of Randolph reminded me some of the character he played in the “Fisher King”. After “Smoochy”, Williams continues his journey as he becomes a psychopath who stalks Al Pacino in “Insomnia”.
Edward Norton is the star of this film in my eyes. He is flawless in his portrayal of Sheldon “Smoochy” Mopes. I loved Norton’s “holier-than-now” approach to Sheldon and how he delivers innocent and “pure-hearted” Sheldon through the film’s noir under-belly. It’s almost like if you took an actual “children’s” television character and dumped him into the “noir” genre. His performance is amazing and a lot of the film’s humor is based upon Sheldon’s culture-clashing with gangsters, seedy underworld types, corrupt executives and a maniacal stalker. I loved Norton in this film.
One more thing that was very original and hilarious was the so-called “children’s” songs sung throughout the film. They are just written so goofy and sang with such passion that they are an utter laugh riot. Imagine a Barney song sung by Weird Al.
Belly-laughs and ridiculous set-ups aren’t always the best glue to keep a project sound. “Smoochy” does tend to get very dark and may alienate some viewers. Since I am a huge fan and admirer of Tim Burton, I really got into some of the darker humor. I am not sure if all audience members will.
There are parts of Smoochy that seem to drag and a couple subplots that we probably didn’t need but overall I liked Smoochy. So when you go to the multiplex this weekend, don’t panic Smoochy’s here. Take a walk on the dark side of comedy.
(4 out of 5)
So Says the Soothsayer.