innocent_man: (hypnotoad)
[personal profile] innocent_man
Death to Smoochy is a dark and, I think, underrated comedy directed by Danny Devito and starring Robin Williams, Edward Norton and Catherine Keener.

Williams plays Rainbow Randolph, the host of a god-awful children's show in which he tap-dances his way through an opening number rife with innuendo, and then gets busted at a dark and moody restaurant for selling the slots on his show. Ousted from KidNet, he falls into depression and looks to take his anger out on his replacement.

Said replacement is Sheldon Mopes (Norton), a would-be entertainer who dresses up as a pink rhino named Smoochy. Since the network wants someone squeaky clean, and Mopes is ethical to an extreme, he gets the job, but the seedy underbelly of children's television quickly tries to corrupt him, and Randolph is also doing his level best to take out the rhino so that he can reclaim his old show. The Irish mob gets involved as Mopes' ally (because he befriends a sweet but mentally challenged relative, who later winds up taking a hit meant for Mopes), while Harvey Firestein plays the head of the Parade of Hope, a children's charity that functions more like the mafia.

The movie is dark, but it's not over-the-top dark like Very Bad Things (which I almost couldn't finish). It's dark, but it's not bleak. Mopes gets an education in how evil people really are, and he almost falls to their level - but never compromises his ethics and, at the same time, is obviously tempted. Some of what makes the character compelling, I think, is that Norton always does histories and backgrounds for his characters (good idea in RPGs, too), and we get the sense that Mopes came from someplace and has actually worked through some shit to get where he is. He's earned his ability to be nice and ethical because he obviously wasn't always this way (he mentions being ordered to take an anger management class in college, and it would have been nice to learn more about that).

Meanwhile, Williams is a force of nature. His Randolph doesn't have any history, he's apparently always been egomaniacal and greedy, but now his web is unraveling. By the end, he recognizes that he has issues and accepts that Mopes is the better man, and that's nice, but Williams is really at his best when you pump him full of coke and let him go, and they actually did that here (note: I have no credible source for the coke).

Keener, meanwhile, plays a KidNet executive who is first dismissive, then contemptuous, then naked for Mopes. I like that the movie isn't about Norton pursuing her, and I like that she obviously feels some attraction for him when they first meet, but then her cynicism and bitter experience with phonies gets the better of her. When they finally do hook up, it feels fairly genuine. And I like Keener because she isn't willowy and blond; she's skinny, but she's kind of gangly and she looks like a person.

Oh, and I have to mention Jon Stewart, since he shows up as another KidNet exec and winds up in on the various plots to kill Mopes. His role is nicely understated and he supports the cast beautifully. I'm really sorry he doesn't do more movies, honestly.

My grade: A-
Rewatch value: High

Next up: Deep Blue Sea

Date: 2012-06-14 03:59 pm (UTC)
electricpaladin: (Default)
From: [personal profile] electricpaladin
Man, this movie was probably my second-favorite movie of my college days, my first-favorite being the Fellowship of the Ring. I thought it was damn-near perfect.


innocent_man: (Default)

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