Death to Smoochy
|Death to Smoochy|
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Danny DeVito|
|Produced by||Andrew Lazar
|Written by||Adam Resnick|
|Music by||David Newman|
|Cinematography||Anastas N. Michos|
|Edited by||Jon Poll|
|Distributed by||Warner Bros. Pictures|
|Running time||107 minutes|
Death to Smoochy is a 2002 American black comedy film directed by and starring Danny DeVito and co-starring Robin Williams, Edward Norton, Catherine Keener, and Jon Stewart. The film received mixed reviews from critics and failed at the box office during its release, but in recent years it has developed a sizable cult following.
"Rainbow Randolph" Smiley (Robin Williams), a happily corrupt children's television host, is disgraced by an FBI sting for making deals with parents who want their kids on the show. He is replaced by the "squeaky clean" Sheldon Mopes (Edward Norton) and his character, Smoochy the Rhino. Mopes is uniquely sincere and thoroughly interested in providing quality child edutainment but is seen by the network as nothing but a substitute for Randolph and they immediately implement a full line of theme-related products based on Smoochy in order to reap the commercial benefits of what has quickly become a tremendously popular kids show. Randolph finds himself unemployed, homeless, and outcast from the television industry by his two-faced associate Marion Stokes (Jon Stewart). In an effort to return to the spotlight, Randolph hatches several schemes to bring down Mopes in hopes of reclaiming his time slot, including planting a phallic-shaped cookie into a live taping of the Smoochy show.
Mopes quickly finds himself losing creative control over his show to his hardened producer Nora Wells (Catherine Keener). With the help of his new agent Burke Bennett (Danny DeVito), Mopes renegotiates his contract and is named executive producer. He is approached by Irish mob boss Tommy Cotter (Pam Ferris), who wants Mopes to create a spot on his show for her cousin Spinner (Michael Rispoli), a former boxer whose numerous head injuries have left him with severe brain damage. Sheldon reluctantly adds Spinner to the show, first as a cowbell-wielding game warden, and later on as Smoochy's cousin Moochy.
Mopes becomes enraged to learn that Burke signed him up to star in a Smoochy ice show; he feels that the event will exploit children. Burke and Merv Green (Harvey Fierstein), the heads of the corrupt charity running the ice show, unsuccessfully warn Mopes from backing out of the event. Soon afterward, a disguised Randolph dupes Mopes into doing a Smoochy act at a neo-Nazi rally that is raided by the police. Smoochy is labeled a racist and fired. However, when Randolph accidentally lets it slip to Nora that he framed Smoochy, he is arrested. Smoochy's reputation and show are restored. After telling him that his show is back on the air, Nora kisses Mopes and has sex with him, starting a relationship.
Smoochy commits to the ice show. He decides that half the proceeds will go to the drug rehab clinic he used to work at, which was closed due to lack of funding; the kids will be given free souvenirs and healthful snacks. Burke and Green retaliate by plotting to kill Mopes and hire a new host who will cooperate with their profit skimming. However, Green and his men accidentally kill Spinner in his Moochy costume; they are discovered and killed by Cotter. Meanwhile, Randolph corners Mopes and Nora in their penthouse and threatens to kill them. They talk him down and discover that he is depressed and genuinely misses entertaining children. An empathetic Mopes offers to let Randolph stay in the penthouse until he recovers.
Burke and Stokes hire heroin addict Buggy Ding Dong (Vincent Schiavelli), another former host, to assassinate Mopes during his ice show. Buggy steals a backstage pass to get inside. However, Randolph, who has been summoned to the ice show, tackles Buggy just as he tries to shoot Mopes from the rafters. Randolph and Buggy struggle for the sniper rifle, until Buggy falls to his death. After Mopes realizes that Bennett and Stokes set him up, he chases after Burke into an alley. He pulls a gun and threatens to kill Burke, but Cotter and her men arrive and persuade him to stop. Mopes and Nora move on, and Cotter decides to take care of Burke and Stokes in her own way. The movie ends with Smoochy and Rainbow Randolph launching a new show together.
- Robin Williams as "Rainbow" Randolph Smiley
- Edward Norton as Sheldon Mopes/Smoochy the Rhino
- Danny DeVito as Burke Bennett
- Catherine Keener as Nora Wells
- Jon Stewart as Marion Frank Stokes
- Melissa DiMarco as Tara
- Pam Ferris as Tommy Cotter
- Michael Rispoli as Spinner Dunn
- Harvey Fierstein as Merv Green
- Vincent Schiavelli as Buggy Ding Dong
- Danny Woodburn as Angelo Pike
- Robert Prosky as Network chairman
The movie was filmed in Toronto and Hamilton, Ontario, along with New York City. Including Union Station, all of the TV studio scenes were shot at the Toronto Film Studios. The scenes involving ice-skating were filmed at Maple Leaf Gardens in Toronto and were choreographed and performed by Canadian figure skaters, including Elvis Stojko.
The film received mixed reviews from critics. The film currently holds a rating of 42% ("rotten") on review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes; as the site's critical consensus has it, "The talent involved can't save a script that has nowhere to go with its promising premise." Roger Ebert wrote an extremely negative review in the Chicago Sun-Times (giving it one-half of a star out of four), saying "Only enormously talented people could have made Death to Smoochy. Those with lesser gifts would have lacked the nerve to make a film so bad, so miscalculated, so lacking any connection with any possible audience. To make a film this awful, you have to have enormous ambition and confidence, and dream big dreams."
Though it received a wide release, playing in some 2,164 theaters its opening weekend in the United States, the film was a box office disaster, grossing $4,266,463 its opening weekend, and a mere $8,382,691 overall, with negligible box-office receipts outside the U.S./Canada market. Considering it had a production budget of some $50 million, Death to Smoochy was a financial flop.
Robin Williams received a Razzie Award nomination for Worst Supporting Actor for his performance as Randolph in this film, but 'lost' to Hayden Christensen for Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones.
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- Death to Smoochy at the Internet Movie Database
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- Death to Smoochy at Rotten Tomatoes