Friday, September 12, 2014

Death to Smoochy

Shine on, you crazy diamond!
Upon its release, Death to Smoochy was considered a raging failure, an utter piece of crap, unfunny and disgusting. And i can get why people hated it...

... because those are the reasons that i love it. Yes, all the characters are unlikeable. Yes, the set design is cartoonishly lurid. Yes, the dialogue is fast and foul. Yes it's over-over-the top. Yes, it's viewpoint is bitter, misanthropic and vile. And you people keep saying all of this like it's a bad thing! And Death to Smoochy contains what may be the most weird, twisted, stone-cold-crazy performance Robin Williams ever delivered.
Williams plays Rainbow Randolph, host of a children's TV show. Imagine some sort of Captain Kangaroo/Liberace/Doug Henning weirdness with tap dancing and little people. 
 ... we won't even talk about the "toss" and "catch" part of the song.

However, Rainbow Randolph is also a coke-huffing, ass-grabbing, bribe-taking, foul-mouthed asshole. It's that third one that gets him in trouble with the FBI. Jon Stewart (with a Nero haircut) and Catherine Keener (with some really nice outfits) have to find a squeaky-clean replacement. Given that in the sordid backstage world of kiddie TV shows, most stars seem to be heroin mules, wife beaters or recently deported, they're stuck with Smoochy. If you always hated Barney, a fuchsia rhino singing folk songs should be close enough to the purple dinosaur's "I love you, you love me" to deeply irk.
There's Ed Norton in cargo pants and cowrie shell necklace as Sheldon Mopes aka Smoochy. Fucking self-righteous, clean-living hippie. Anyway, Smoochy gets Rainbow Randolph's time slot and Rainbow Randolph requires revenge. First up: Cookie sabotage!
 "He made it from dill-dough!"

... and herein lies the magic of Death to Smoochy. There are a number of times when i'm practically certain that the script just said "Robin goes off." (And, actually, if you look at the DVD outtakes, it's proven -- there's a few different versions of his ranting freakouts.) The best moments of the film are when Williams just lets loose and this moment of shrieking dozens of euphemisms for "cock and balls" at a scandalized rhino furry and dozens of delighted small children is the first.
However, there is not nearly as much Rainbow Fucking Randolph Williams in this film as there should be and too much granola fuckwit Smoochy. Also there's a whole host of subsidiary villains: Jon Stewart's network sleaze, a bunch of Irish gangsters, a criminal charity headed by Harvey Fierstein and director Danny DeVito as an shady agent. But, then again, we get the fun bits, like Williams' bad disguise and accent roulette on the way to the Nazi rally...
 Also, there's an ice show that is a major plot point. Because "No one says no to an ice show."

Death to Smoochy is a flawed film -- and not in a bad taste/foul humor way. But it bogs down in those plot twists and somehow manages to push out an ending where suddenly we have good guys and bad guys and conventional conclusions. Still, for those moments that allow Robin Williams to roll loose and wild like an id set loose on mescaline with its hair on fire, Death to Smoochy is definitely worthwhile.

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