Film: Death to Smoochy

"Today we celebrate outstanding achievement in film with me, the fourth leading man from Death To Smoochy."
Jon Stewart, hosting the 78th Academy Awards, 2006.

Death to Smoochy is a 2002 dark comedy film starring Robin Williams, Edward Norton, and Catherine Keener. It also features Jon Stewart and Danny DeVito, who also directed the film. Death to Smoochy is known for its outwardly vulgar and profane humor, particularly Williams' profound cursing outbursts throughout the film.

Williams plays Rainbow Randolph (aka Randolph Smiley), a children's television show host. Onscreen, he is a lovable and friendly character, but in his personal life, he is virtually the antithesis incarnate of himself: rude and irascible with a propensity for violence. Unfortunately for Randolph, his show is canceled after he is caught by the FBI taking bribes from parents to put their kids on his show, and he is replaced by another show featuring a purple anthropomorphic rhino named Smoochy (a clear parody of Barney the Dinosaur), played by Norton.

Randolph spirals into depression and poverty, and vows to bring down Smoochy and his show. Throughout the film, Randolph concocts a variety of sadistic and psychotic plots to ruin Smoochy's career, and becomes involved with a gangster named Merv Green (Harvey Fierstein), but his ploys are constantly foiled by the fact that Smoochy really is as sweet and nice as the character he portrays.

The film was a commercial and critical bomb, but like most comedies that fall under that category, it has developed a cult following.

This Movie Contains Examples of:

  • All Men Are Perverts: We think Nora Wells seems to think about males that way, just until Smoochy blows off steam.
  • Artistic License Law: The full-scale raid on the Nazi rally. Technically, the police can be called to break up such an assembly if they didn't have a permit to hold it, but performing a police raid on a peaceful Nazi assembly just because it's a Nazi assembly is illegal.
  • Atomic F-Bomb: Randolph's "Motherfucker!" after discovering that Sheldon and Nora are seeing each other, also counts as a Skyward Scream.
  • Berserk Button: Anything related to Smoochy ends up as this for Randolph, including a fundraiser to "Save the African Black Rhino."
  • Beware the Nice Ones: Sheldon is undoubtedly the nicest character in the whole film but he doesn't exactly care for people using him and killing his friends.
  • Black Comedy: A very prominent example since 90% of the humor comes from people getting into bad situation after bad situation. The other 10% comes from all the murder/setup/mafia madness.
  • Bread, Eggs, Milk, Squick: Smoochy's songs. They are all bouncy, upbeat tunes, exactly what you would expect on a children's show. Even the ones he is singing to junkies at a shelter. Do not listen to the words, though.
  • Concert Climax: Filled with kid show hosts, assassins, and an incredibly silly yet still very touching ice show that's happening during the climax.
  • Contractual Purity: Not in the movie itself, but in-universe; the plot is kicked off when Randolph loses his job by getting caught taking a bribe to get a rich couple's kid to participate in the show. While it's possible that there was some kind of contractual reason he couldn't do that, the only apparent reason for losing the show is that taking a bribe makes him a bad role model.
    • Smoochy's purity is most likely contractual, seeing as how the producer ordered Frank Stokes to find someone "squeaky FUCKING clean!"
  • Depraved Bisexual: Randolph, maybe.
  • Depraved Kids' Show Host: The movie breathes this trope.
  • Dented Iron: Spinner, who "owns" a restaurant now that he's retired from boxing. "You don't go 8159 and become the Governor..."
  • Did I Just Say That Out Loud?: Randolph accidentally reveals that he framed Smoochy when he says "You should have seen him sizing me up in the car."
  • False Reassurance: Nora offers one to Sheldon, and he's so naive that he buys into it completely.
    Sheldon: (excitedly) Hold the phone. You're telling me that KidNet is finally ready to do a show of Smoochy quality? Of Smoochy caliber?
    Nora: Yes...I believe we're ready to push ourselves to that level.
  • Getting Crap Past the Radar: In-universe example. During Rainbow's opening song — "Some like to toss, while others to catch" and "One might say grab while the other says snatch."
    • "Golly gee, size doesn't matter when you want some friendly patter."
  • Heel-Face Turn: Rainbow Randolph. He's still crazy, though.
  • Hurricane of Euphemisms: The cookie scene has Randolph fire off a string of euphemisms for "penis". Bonus points for Williams' rant being delivered in front of kids, who crack up hysterically.
  • Interrupted Suicide: Rainbow Randolph
  • The Irish Mob: Played for Laughs.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Tommy Cotter, leader of the Irish mob and very protective of those she considers her friends and family.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Jerk: Berke Bennet, Sheldon Mopes' agent and the guy who eventually tries to get him killed.
  • Large Ham: Robin Williams, natch.
  • Nice Character, Mean Actor: Rainbow Randolph.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: Played with. Of the dozens of entertainers mentioned as characters in the movie, none of them are real. However, at one point, Randolph refers to Smoochy as a "bastard son of Barney." Also, there are a few implications that Randolph is an expy for Pee-Wee Herman.
  • Non-Indicative Name:
    • Sheldon Mopes, despite all that happens to him, does anything but.
    • And yet, "Burke" Bennett is pretty much exactly dead-on.
  • Not Evil, Just Misunderstood: The basis of "My Stepdad's Not Mean, He's Just Adjusting." However, he tells the kids at the end that if he's ever outright abusive, the magic number is 9-1-1.
  • Not My Driver: How Randolph got Sheldon.
  • Not So Above It All / Really Gets Around: If what Rainbow says is true, prior to Smoochy, Straw Feminist Nora has slept around with every single kid show host, including Randolph.
  • Oh, Crap: Sheldon's jaw drops when he realizes he's performing at a Nazi rally.
  • OOC Is Serious Business: After being framed as a Nazi by Randolph, temporarily fired from the show, and finding out that the Coney Island Methadone Clinic was closed, Sheldon is seen eating a cheeseburger. Considering at the beginning of the movie he was eating and actively promoting soybean over greasy foods, this is a pretty clear sign he's depressed.
  • Pre-emptive Declaration:
    Sheldon: Oh, you didn't have to get off the phone.
    Nora: If I didn't, you'd still be here.
    Sheldon: I am still here.
    Nora: I'm hoping to correct that.
  • Running Gag: Randolph slamming into/getting slammed into a wall.
  • Sad Clown: Zig Zagged. In one sense, Robin Williams is playing his usual role here, as a guy who's jovial on the surface but hurting inside. In another sense, he's playing wildly against type. Rainbow Randolph is less 'sad' than 'fucked-up and mentally unbalanced.'
  • Senseless Violins: Buggy carries his rifle in a trombone case when trying to assassinate Smoochy at his ice show.
  • Serious Business:
    • Apparently, kiddie TV shows are full of groupies, graft, and corruption in every sense of the word, and one honest entertainer can be a massive Spanner in the Works.
    • And God help you if you try to mess with the mob's control of the ice show racket.
  • Skyward Scream: The Atomic F-Bomb mentioned above and another one before that: "Oh, God! What does it all mean?"
  • Straw Feminist: Nora Wells, the executive producer for Smoochy the Rhino.
  • Subverted Kids Show: God knows Randolph tries to pull this on Smoochy's show several times.
  • Watch Out for That Tree!: Rainbow Randolph's victory dance after framing Smoochy as a Nazi is cut short by a wall.
  • Worst News Judgment Ever: Literally all entertainment news in this movie is about children's TV. Sheldon receiving full creative control over the Smoochy show is on the front page of Variety, for crying out loud!

Alternative Title(s):

Death To Smoochy