|Death to Smoochy|
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Danny DeVito|
|Written by||Adam Resnick|
|Music by||David Newman|
|Cinematography||Anastas N. Michos|
|Edited by||Jon Poll|
|Distributed by||Warner Bros. Pictures|
|Box office||$8.3 million|
Death to Smoochy is a 2002 black comedy crime film directed by Danny DeVito and written by Adam Resnick. Starring Robin Williams, Edward Norton, DeVito, Catherine Keener and Jon Stewart, the film centers on "Rainbow" Randolph Smiley (Williams), a disgraced former children's TV host who attempts to sabotage his replacement, Sheldon Mopes, and his character, Smoochy the Rhino (Norton).
Produced by Film4 Productions and Andrew Lazar's Mad Chance Productions, Death to Smoochy was released in the United States on March 29, 2002 by Warner Bros. Pictures. The film met with mixed-to-negative reviews from critics and was a huge box office bomb, grossing only $8.3 million against a budget of $50 million. Despite this, in recent years it has garnered a cult following.
Randolph "Rainbow Randolph" Smiley is the host of "The Rainbow Randolph Show", a popular children's television show that is frequently broadcast on the kids' television channel Kidnet. Despite his friendly and playful appearance on-stage in the television studio, off-stage in reality, he is actually an alcoholic and corrupt businessman who secretly accepts bribes from parents who want to put their kids on his show. After an FBI sting exposes him, Randolph is fired, and his show is canceled. He is promptly replaced with the "squeaky clean" Sheldon Mopes and his character Smoochy the Rhino, who is uniquely sincere and thoroughly interested in providing quality children's entertainment, and despite doubts from his hardened producer Nora Wells, his show quickly becomes tremendously popular. Meanwhile, Randolph turns to his former associate Marion Stokes and pleads to help him get his job back, but he refuses. After several attempts to get Sheldon fired, Randolph turns to his former partner Angelo Pike and asks if he can stay at his apartment, to which Angelo reluctantly agrees.
Sheldon quickly finds himself losing creative control over his show to Nora and with the help of his new corrupt agent Burke Bennett, Sheldon renegotiates his contract and is named executive producer. Later, Irish mob boss Tommy Cotter approaches Sheldon and asks him to create a spot on his show for her cousin Spinner Dunn, a former boxer whose numerous head injuries have left him with brain damage. Sheldon reluctantly adds Spinner to the show, first as a cowbell-wielding game warden and later on as Smoochy's cousin Moochy.
Sheldon is horrified to learn that Burke has signed him up to star in a Smoochy ice show, as he fears that the event will exploit children. Burke and Merv Green, the head of the corrupt charity running the ice show, warn Sheldon not to back out of the event, but he does so anyway. Soon afterward, a disguised Randolph tricks Sheldon into performing a Smoochy act at a Neo-Nazi rally as a result of which Sheldon is branded a racist and loses his job and show, and Nora even refuses to help him. However, Randolph's victory is cut short when, after he barges into Nora's apartment and attempts to convince her to help him get his job back, he accidentally reveals that he set Sheldon up. Tommy and her crew barge into Angelo's apartment and force Randolph to confess that he tricked Sheldon. As a result, Sheldon's show is restored and Randolph is dubbed the most hated man in America by the media. To make matters worse, a fed up Angelo kicks Randolph out of his house. After telling him that his show is back on the air, Nora kisses Sheldon and the two have sex.
Sheldon decides to perform in the ice show, but without the corrupt charities. Burke and Green retaliate by plotting to kill Sheldon and hire a new host who will cooperate with their profit skimming. However, their plan backfires when, during a rehearsal, Merv's men mistake Spinner in his Moochy costume for Sheldon and murder him. When Tommy gets word of this, she retaliates by killing Merv and his men. Meanwhile, Randolph confronts Sheldon and Nora in their apartment and reveals to Sheldon that Nora had affairs with numerous children's show hosts, including Randolph himself. Sheldon is brokenhearted by this, but Nora insists that she was young and foolish back then and she really has genuine feelings for him. The two manage to calm Randolph down and discover that he is depressed and genuinely misses entertaining children. Sheldon offers to let Randolph stay in his apartment until he recovers.
Burke and Marion decide to partner up after hearing of Merv's death. Burke hires Buggy Ding Dong, another former kid's show host, to assassinate Sheldon during his ice show. Buggy steals a backstage pass to get inside, but before he can shoot Sheldon, he is confronted by Randolph. They struggle for the rifle until Buggy falls to his death in the ice rink. After Sheldon realizes that Burke and Marion set him up, he pulls a gun and threatens to kill Burke. Tommy and her men then arrive and persuade him not to forfeit his high ideals. Tommy decides to take care of Burke and Marion in her own way (murdering them offscreen, in a deleted scene), Sheldon and Nora share a kiss in Times Square, and Smoochy and Randolph launch a new show together alongside Nora, who becomes an ice skater.
In November or December 2000, screenwriter Adam Resnick wrote the screenplay for the film, while art designers sketched designs for the characters for the film. In the original screenplay, the Smoochy costume was originally orange. The final film used a pink costume instead.
Principal photography began in January 2001. Sequences were filmed in several locations in New York City such as Times Square, Coney Island, Upper West Side and Duane Street in Lower Manhattan. A brief shot of the North tower of the World Trade Center can be seen where Rainbow Randolph is dancing on the small bench in Duane Park. In the DVD commentary, Danny DeVito says it was the only shot in the movie that was in. No changes were made after the September 11th, 2001 terrorist attacks. Filming production moved to Canada on spring 2001. The KidNet studios scenes were shot in several areas in Toronto. In the ice show scene with Smoochy and Rainbow, Robin's stuntdouble Elvis Stojko choreographed some of the skating moves for Rainbow Randolph. Robin was off stage. Filming ended in May 2001.
The film was released on VHS and DVD on September 17, 2002.
On Rotten Tomatoes, Death to Smoochy holds an approval rating of 42% based on 120 reviews with an average rating of 5.3/10. The site's critical consensus states, "The talent involved can't save a script that has nowhere to go with its promising premise." On Metacritic, the film has a score of 38 out of 100, based on 30 critics, indicating "generally unfavorable reviews". Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "C" on an A+ to F scale.
Roger Ebert of The Chicago Sun-Times gave the film an extremely negative review (giving it half a star out of four), saying that "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." He named the film the Worst of the Year.Todd McCarthy of Variety also gave the film a negative review, saying that the film "pushes its dark, smart, clever, cynical, satirical, nasty, provocative and sarcastic instincts to the point of heavily diminished returns--to the point where the very amusing premise just isn't funny anymore."Peter Travers of Rolling Stone wrote: "This black-comic assault on family entertainment is going to set a lot of teeth on edge--If only his (DeVito's) material were better this time."
Conversely, J. Hoberman of The Village Voice praised the film, saying that "Death to Smoochy is often very funny, but what's even more remarkable is the integrity of DeVito's misanthropic vision." David Sterritt of the Christian Science Monitor called the film a "razor-sharp satire" and "the most refreshingly outrageous movie of the season."
Though it received a wide release by playing in 2,164 theaters its opening weekend in the United States, the film was a box-office bomb after grossing only $4,266,463 its opening weekend and a mere $8,382,691 overall, with negligible box-office receipts outside the American/Canadian market.
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 his performance in Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones.