September 24, 2003

Death to Smoochy; A Review

You remember the Dream Team don’t you? The first year the Olympics allowed professional basketball players to participate in the games. We were all so excited to see these hoops giants (literally and figuratively) all on the same team. But then the games began and the games were horrifically boring. They were about as interesting as a Picasso paint by numbers or reading an Emily Dickinson greeting card. They were the greatest players in the game but couldn’t show it against teams that either didn’t have the funding to properly train or teams that knew more about baklava than basketball. In truth, the Dream Team admitted that they were more interested in the opportunity to play with each other than they were in playing against other teams.

This is the same feeling you get when watching some movies with several heavy Hollywood hitters. Sometimes the actors/directors are so interested in working with each other, they don’t really pay much attention to what it is they choose to work on. They figure that with so much talent involved, the product will certainly be good enough. Unfortunately, as Death to Smoochy, teaches us, ample talent does not a great movie make.

Edward Norton, Robin Williams and a strong supporting cast including director Danny DeVito put their best feet forward in this dark comedy about the evils and rivalries of Children’s Television. And despite a few truly funny moments the film falls victim to a mediocre script. Adam Resnick, screenwriter from the ridiculous Cabin Boy uses all the clichés of Hollywood without using any of its helpful standards of story development and “Keep it simple stupid.” The film relies pretty heavily on truly foul language and some cheap slapstick. In its effort to be edgy it ends up irreverent and usually just tired. The only problem with being edgy these days is that everybody else is doing it. It makes me think of that scene in Monty Python’s The Life of Brian, where an entire crowd is yelling “We’re individuals!” And one guy in the back yells out “I’m not.” Death to Smoochy is nothing new and its unfortunately not even very good formula.

Look for the DVD on this one, because my guess is that the real fun came on the set with these talented and genuinely funny people. The outtakes and deleted scenes will most likely make it worth the rental.

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