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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Death To Smoochy
Death To Smoochy
Warner Bros. // R // September 17, 2002
List Price: $26.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Aaron Beierle | posted September 16, 2002 | E-mail the Author
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The Movie:


I continue to be baffled by the career of screenwriter Adam Resnick. While Resnick used to write for both the "Larry Sanders Show" and "Letterman", Resnick's screenplay for "Cabin Boy", a film starring Chris Elliot as a spoiled brat travelling through a fantasy-world version of the high seas, somehow got made. While occasionally amusing, the film ended up with $3m at the box office. "Smoochy", an equally odd film with a bigger cast, bigger budget ($55m) and more widely-known director, hardly found more success, wrapping up its run with $8m. While Resnick's screenplays (I'll be kind and not mention Resnick's awful "Lucky Numbers") have their witty moments, their strange sensibilities and offbeat humor almost make them destined for cult pictures before the lights go down in their theaters across the country.

"Death To Smoochy" offers an idea that, while dated at this point, could have actually been decent had it not been explored in such a messy fashion. Robin Williams plays Rainbow Randolph, a Barney-ish kids show host who, early in the film, gets busted by the FBI for taking bribes from parents who wanted to get their kids on TV. A couple of TV execs (Catherine Keener and Jon Stewart) unearth Sheldon Mopes, a perfectly happy individual who creates a character called "Smoochy" - a big, pink Rhino.

Smoochy becomes an instant hit, but this doesn't go unnoticed by Randolph, who has just gotten out of jail and has become insanely jealous of his replacement. Yet, this is one element of the story (along with the film's many subplots, one of which includes the Irish mafia), which mainly seems to be stating that children's television is all about making money and selling related products, which seemed remarkably obvious. Although much of the film seems to be trying for satire, I found little of it intelligent or particularly funny. Especially irritating is the screenplay's mistake of thinking curse words are an appropriate substitute for genuine wit. While profanity is genuinely funny when used well, this much foul language doesn't have a point here and, after a while, it gets tiring. The Simpsons have provided more laughs and more intelligence with its "Krusty the Clown" character for years now.

As for the performances, they're a mixed affair, although I doubt many could do much with what Resnick's screenplay has to offer. Williams, who obviously (not that I blame him) wants to distance himself from "Patch Adams", turns in a performance that's louder and more obnoxious than any "Barney" show. Norton, on the other hand, chooses to underplay and offers a more enjoyable effort. Keener's decent, as is Jon Stewart, but both are fine actors that deserve better than limited supporting characters.

While "Smoochy" coasted along for a while as I waited to see if it would come together, it never really does. While I'll admit that the film did offer patches of inspired entertainment, stretches of it seemed to be shrill and in search of laughs and a point, both of which the film rarely stumbled upon. While I'm sure that "Smoochy" will develop some sort of cult following along the lines of Resnick's "Cabin Boy", I thought "Smoochy" was a serious disapointment - a dull and harsh dark comedy that irritated considerably more than it amused.


The DVD


VIDEO: "Death to Smoochy" is presented by Warner Brothers in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. Although I disliked the film, I thought Anastas N. Michos' cinematography was really quite beautiful at times (although I could have done with less in the way of odd camera angles). The presentation by Warner Brothers captures it wonderfully, too; sharpness and detail remained phenomenal throughout, as the picture maintained exceptional clarity and definition.

Hardly any flaws were noted throughout the picture - while a few little specks and some very slight edge enhancement were seen, neither of these faults were even particularly noticable. Pixelation or any other flaws are also not spotted. Last, but not least, the film's consistently over-the-top color palette remained exceptionally well-saturated and never showed any smearing. Black level remained solid, while flesh tones looked accurate and natural. A particularly nice transfer.


SOUND: The film's Dolby Digital 5.1 presentation is essentially the definition of a "comedy" soundtrack, with essentially no surround use that I remember. Dialogue remained clear throughout, but that's really the only element of note to the audio.

MENUS: Decent animated main menu as well as animated transitions between main & sub-menus.

EXTRAS:

Commentary: This is a commentary from director Danny Devito and cinematographer Anastas N. Michos. While I appreciated the cinematographer's intelligent discussion of his craft and the technical details he provided, Devito seems to have little to discuss. After the director managed to find what seemed like the 100th way to say how wonderful everyone was, I turned this track off.

Gag Reel: A 4 1/2 minute gag reel, most of which is funnier than anything in the movie.

Deleted Scenes: 10 deleted scenes are offered; instead of commentary, we're presented with quick text screens that explain why they were deleted.

Trailers: The film's theatrical trailer and two unused trailers.

Also: Cast/crew bios, large stills gallery (behind-the-scenes, production design, costume design, art materials, production stills), multi-angle (4) version of the "ice show" and cast/crew bios.


Final Thoughts: A sour movie that I didn't find funny, "Death To Smoochy" wastes a legion of talented actors on a dismal script. The DVD offers excellent picture quality, fine audio and an uneven batch of supplements. Those who enjoyed it in the theater should pick up the DVD edition, but I can't recommend it to those who who haven't seen it.

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