Death to Smoochy

A heartfelt comedy about murder and cocks.
"Get ready for an unexpected hit."

Hello friends, welcome back to the Tagline, where movies are king and I am dubious about some of these taglines. I almost picked a different tagline for this movie, because there were some posters apparently circulating with "He's Big, He's Blue, He's Smoochy... and He's got to DIE!" which is funny because Smoochy is, in fact, pink/an argument could be made for light purple. What he is not is blue. That being said, the desire for his death definitely seemed to exist in this 2002 film about the corrupt dealings behind the children's entertainment business. Death to Smoochy stars Edward Norton (remember Red Dragon?) as Sheldon Mopes, a children's entertainer (and also smackhead entertainer) who hits the big time when he is hired to replace Rainbow Randolph (Robin Williams) who is fired after being caught by the FBI making deals with children's parents to get them on the show. The network decides to hire Sheldon, or more specifically Smoochy the Rhino, because he has a reputation for possessing unimpeachable integrity. This incidentally is not all rumor or speculation, the guy is a real boy scout. It can be difficult to keep up that squeaky clean shine though when you're in showbiz, especially with the guy you replaced plotting your downfall and the mob trying to muscle in on your game so that they can skim a tidy profit off of your success. Sheldon certainly finds this to be the case, and struggles to maintain both his personal integrity, and the quality of edutainment in his program, while the executives and criminal elements all close in on him.

Acting or genuinely insane? You be the judge.
One of the funniest things about this film to me, even before I really talk much about the movie itself, is how it was marketed... not so great. You have to understand the confusion and where it came from to really get the whole picture. Death to Smoochy was released in March of 2002, and at that point in time Robin Williams was probably better known among the movie-going crowd for his family friendly comedies, rather than for being the dirty bastard that anyone who'd ever seen him do stand-up knows he is. Maybe they were all thinking of Flubber and Mrs. Doubtfire, remembering fondly Bicentennial Man or something. I imagine Edward Norton dressed as a brightly colored Rhino also might have confused movie-goers. You would expect that the title might help them figure out what was going on, but then again they might have expected the subject matter to be... I don't know really, the movie was rated R, what the hell is wrong with people. Anyway, some audiences had mistaken expectations about what was going to happen in this movie. Maybe they thought that Edward Norton wasn't going to pull a cookie shaped like a dick out of a bag, and then for Robin Williams to burst onto stage and shout at children about how it was a cock cookie. In that case I imagine the whole movie was very shocking for them. 

Maybe my favorite still of all time.
This movie was directed by Danny DeVito, who also features prominently in it as a scumbag agent and co-owner of a corrupt charity that isn't shy about skimming off the top. He is also the one most invested in the murder of Smoochy/Sheldon. To a modern audience, in this post Always Sunny era, DeVito's presence in the director's chair is surefire warning that something profane is going to happen, and also a good indicator that you may soon be staring at DeVito ass (though fortunately he does not find a way to be nude in this film, for which we can all be grateful). I think in 2002 people didn't know what to expect, and were just not prepared for what was about to happen to them. This... very DeVito brand of dark comedy was something that I think people really developed a liking of on a wider scale as the 2000s wore on, and right on the tail end of the 90s there weren't a lot of movies like this on offer, and people didn't know what to expect. As a result, there was no real way this movie was going to succeed in that market. In a lot of ways, certain aspects of the movie (particularly Mopes brand of all vegan nature friendly edutainment) have actually become more topical with the passage of time, and that has I think contributed to this movie becoming a cult hit over time.

Don't be this guy.
At its core, Death to Smoochy is about Mopes being drawn way over his head, into a deadly situation full of crooks, and trying to come out on the other side with his head still on his shoulders. Also a little bit a story about Robin Williams being a complete maniac, but mostly the first thing I said. Reviews on the movie were mixed, but I think that this is a really funny film, with a lot of talent being showcased, doing what it does best. It is no surprise to me that this movie tanked in the box office, for the reasons I listed above, and I'm also not surprised about the split review scores, given that I just don't think this brand of humor necessarily flies with everyone. Generally speaking if you're familiar with Mr. DeVito's other fine comedic productions, and the general depravity within, you have a passing idea of how well Death to Smoochy is going to sit with you. I personally really like this movie, and can easily recommend it. I believe it is currently still available to stream on Netflix, so why not right?

That's it for today! Over the weekend I hope to see How to Train Your Dragon 2, I heard it was a worthy sequel, and so we'll see how that sits with me!

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