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Williams shows his dark side in smoochy

by Archives April 3, 2002

Anyone who would attempt to summarize Death to Smoochy in one adjective would be ambitious yet unsuccessful. Robin Williams and Edward Norton will cause an abandonment of all prior preconceptions about these two actors and enthusiastically deliver a film that is absolutely a new genre in its’ own right.
Williams vilifies himself and is perhaps gradually preparing the world for an advent of villainous Robin Williams characters as his next film is to star opposite Al Pacino in a crime thriller.
Norton continues to display range and diversifies his resume by playing a tranquil character that loves the world. And Danny De Vito both casts himself and directs this superbly menacing and unconformist film that will surely leave audiences divided as to the appreciation of this film.
From its’ abrupt, credit-less and quasi-violent opening, it dissolves into a complete opposite of what was just viewed.
Robin Williams plays a kiddie show host who looks like a cross between Willy Wonka and a demented clown. In this opening sequence, Rainbow Randolph (Williams) demonstrates his affinity for children with an entertaining dance number lifted from his children’s show that contradicts the initial grim opening.

De Vito is an anchor of film’s success
Yet this is where early on I observed the keen ambition of the film. De Vito’s talent as a director slowly unravels on screen, as different levels of cinema are achieved in order to convey a sense of exaggeration within a realistic environment.
De Vito who has directed other twisted pieces (The War of the Roses, Throw Momma from the Train) tackles the issue of emotions taking over one’s actions as Rainbow Randolph must deal with the coming of a new children’s television show host, Smoochy.
After a payola scandal leaves Rainbow Randolph unemployed, the network executive (Catherine Keener) turns to Edward Norton’s lovable bastard child of Barney the Dinosaur, Smoochy to resurrect the children’s network. Driven by insanity and envy for what he once had, Rainbow Rudolph plots an attempt to remove Smoochy from television supremacy.
This main theme at times takes a backseat to Adam Resnick’s original screenplay as questionable subplots such as Irish Gangsters and corrupted children’s charities slow the piece.
From the previous synopsis, one can identify retribution, anger and hate within the film. Yet throughout all these emotions, laughter is not forgotten. While this film is not a direct comedy, nor a direct drama, it amalgamates many different levels of film and creates a truly unique, twisted and comic tale of retribution.
De Vito’s sinister tale is brought to life by the aid of his cinematographer Anastos Nichos. Nichos and his outlandish visual style such as slanted frames, protruding eyeball close ups and his sense of depth and darkness give the film a feeling of absolute subtle veracity.
Furthermore, as aforementioned, Williams and Norton deliver some absolutely memorable scenes as these two established actors play complete opposites of one another. Williams seems to be under direct orders from De Vito to let loose and come across as a maniacal, energetic and exuberant character all the while unraveling his cryptic, vengeful repressed soul that is unlocked once the supremacy is terminated.
This can be viewed after the first attempt at besmirching Smoochy’s name with an alignment to a Nazi regime. Williams traverses the New York city parks with a sense of joyousness at his twisted efforts, which can only be accomplished by Robin Williams.
While on the other hand, Norton comes across as a gentle, loving individual with a dark past that resulted in him having to attend anger management classes.
Norton, with the rise of an eyebrow and the slightest facial contortion, can emit many emotions in this character-driven film, which raises Norton’s diverse range of characters to an even greater level.
His wild side comes across as he evens the scores in a delirium of a film that upon first viewing will not be fully appreciated. It is only with the mental playback of key scenes that one comes to understand the vision De Vito wanted to convey.
While the film will certainly not be a solid hit, its’ misinterpretations from viewers will allow opening weekend fans to lament about the film’s dark and cynical vision causing bad word of mouth to hinder exposure for this relentlessly ambitious studio film that has all the qualities of a great anti-studio film.
An applause to Williams and Norton for taking a chance on a script that is non-formulaic and un-Hollywood in many ways. This film will leave audiences divided on two fronts. Either complete dismay at a disappointing film or complete awe at a vivid depiction of jealousy and indignation.

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