Death to Smoochy

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Death to Smoochy
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Danny DeVito
Produced by Andrew Lazar
Peter Macgregor-Scott
Written by Adam Resnick
Starring Robin Williams
Edward Norton
Danny DeVito
Catherine Keener
Jon Stewart
Music by David Newman
Cinematography Anastas N. Michos
Edited by Jon Poll
Distributed by Warner Bros.
Release dates
  • March 29, 2002 (2002-03-29)
Running time
105 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $50 million
Box office $8,382,938

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[citation needed].


"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, and his show quickly becomes tremendously popular. Randolph finds himself unemployed, homeless, and outcast from the television business 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 timeslot, including planting a phallic-shaped cookie into a live taping of the replacement show, Smoochy's Magic Jungle.

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. Irish mob boss Tommy Cotter (Pam Ferris) approaches Mopes, asking him 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, who just so happens to be a really big fan of Smoochy's Magic Jungle. Reluctantly, Sheldon adds Spinner to the show, first as a cowbell-wielding game warden, and later on as Smoochy's cousin Moochy.

Mopes is horrified to learn that Burke signed him up to star in a Smoochy ice show; he fears that the event will exploit children. Burke and Merv Green (Harvey Fierstein), the heads of the corrupt charity running the ice show, warn Mopes not to back out of the event, but he does anyway. Soon afterward, a disguised Randolph tricks Mopes into performing a Smoochy act at a neo-Nazi rally that is raided by the police. Smoochy is branded a racist and fired. However, when Randolph accidentally lets it slip to Nora that he set Sheldon up, he is arrested. Smoochy's reputation and show are restored. Nora and Mopes begin a relationship.

Mopes decides that half the proceeds of the ice show should go to the drug rehabilitation clinic where he used to work, which was closed due to lack of funding, and the other half to child literacy enhancement programs; the children who attend the show itself will be given free souvenirs and healthy 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; Cotter and her men retaliate by killing them. 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 not to forfeit his high ideals. 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.



Death to Smoochy 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.[citation needed]


The film currently holds a rating of 42% ("rotten") on review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes based on 119 critics who contributed reviews thereto as well as a 66% audience rating; 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."[1] On Metacritic, its weighted average score is 38 from 30 critics, which the site considers "generally unfavorable".[2] 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."[3]

J. Hoberman of The Village Voice, however, praised the film: "Death to Smoochy is often very funny, but what's even more remarkable is the integrity of DeVito's misanthropic vision."[4]

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 bomb, 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.[5]

Robin Williams received a Razzie Award nomination for Worst Supporting Actor for his performance as Randolph in this film, but 'lost' to Hayden Christensen, who was nominated for Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones.[citation needed]


  1. ^ Death to Smoochy—Rotten Tomatoes
  2. ^ Death to Smoochy Reviews—Metacritic
  3. ^ Ebert, Roger (2002-03-29). "Death to Smoochy" (film review). Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved 2013-04-05.
  4. ^ Hoberman, Jim (2002-04-02). "Houses of Mirth". The Village Voice. Archived from the original on 2009-05-17. Retrieved 2009-05-17. 
  5. ^ Death to Smoochy (2002)

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