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Film / Death to Smoochy

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"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, Catherine Keener and Jon Stewart. It was directed by Danny DeVito, who also plays a supporting role. Death to Smoochy is known for its outwardly vulgar and profane humor, particularly Williams's 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 cancelled 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 entertainer Sheldon Mopes (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 Sheldon really is as sweet and nice as the character he portrays.

This Movie Contains Examples of:

  • All Men Are Perverts: Nora Wells seems to think that way about males at first, just until Smoochy blows off steam.
  • Artistic License – Law: New York police break up a rally in New Jersey.
  • 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 going after his friends. Then Spinner is murdered...
  • Big Applesauce: The majority of this movie takes place (and was filmed on-location) in New York City.
  • Big "NO!": Merv Green's final words before getting beheaded by The Irish Mob.
  • Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: Rainbow when he’s away from the camera and from kids. Also invoked: the gist of the movie is that he wants to convince everyone that Smoochy is like this, too.
  • 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.
  • Blatant Lies: Merv Green's insistence that he put a hit on Smoochy's head because he only cared about the children. Tommy retorts with the fairy tale about "the worthless prick who got his head chopped off with an axe."
  • Bloodless Carnage: Not carnage in a sense, but Buggy falls over a hundred feet and lands on his face on ice without a single drop of blood shown.
  • 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 methadone clinic. Do not listen to the words, though.
    "My step-dad's not mean/he's just adjusting"
  • …But He Sounds Handsome: Inverted: When Randolph poses as Sheldon's limo driver, he insults "that scoundrel" to coax Sheldon into doing it too. An oblivious Sheldon posits that Randolph is troubled, but talented. Randolph is so frustrated by this altruism that his Self-Deprecation becomes more vitriolic, jeopardizing his cover.
  • Catchphrase: "Well how do you like that?..." from Sheldon, when faced with something unexpected.
  • 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!"
  • Cute Bruiser: Sure, Spinner may be adorably naive with the simple mind of a five-year-old, as Sheldon says, but he's also a former boxing champ. And it's obvious he's no pushover during his last moments when he manages to fight back against the hitmen who mistake him for Smoochy, who only get the upper hand on him because they outnumber him three-to-one and brought lead pipes.
  • Defrosting Ice Queen: Nora initially regards Sheldon as an annoying nuisance and doesn't care about what he wants out of his show, but begins falling for him once she starts realizing that he's genuine.
  • Dented Iron: Spinner, who "owns" a restaurant now that he's retired from boxing.
    Burke: Fried beans. But hey, you don't retire with a record of 81 and 59 and end up the Governor.
  • Depraved Kids' Show Host:
    • The movie breathes this trope, especially with Rainbow Randolph. He's popular with kids but thinks little of them, is a greedy alcoholic with a vulgar mouth, and goes so far to set up Sheldon with a cookie in the shape of a penis and luring him to a Nazi rally. Sheldon finds out the hard way that the business as a whole has become like this.
    • Buggy, another former kids' show host, has a serious drug problem that is implied to have cost him his job. His promised reward for assasinating Sheldon (which he thankfully fails) was to get his old show back despite clearly being unwilling to kick the habit and now being a murderer on top of it.
  • Did I Just Say That Out Loud?: Randolph accidentally reveals that he framed Smoochy when he says "You should have seen the way he was checking me out in the car."
  • Expy Coexistence: Smoochy the purple rhino is modeled after Barney the purple dinosaur. One of the insults Randolph hurls at him during a tirade is "bastard son of Barney", establishing that Barney also exists in-universe.
  • 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 pursue a show of Smoochy caliber? I mean, to commit to Smoochy quality?
    Nora: Yes, I believe we're ready to... push ourselves to that level.
  • Funny Background Event: As Sheldon and Nora are talking at the end, one of the scrolling headlines reads "Rainbow Randolph: Paranoid lunatic with a heart of gold."
  • Heel–Face Turn: Rainbow Randolph finally comes to his senses and goes out of his way to save Sheldon from being assassinated at the ice show. 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.
  • I Just Want to Have Friends: What seems to be part of Randolph’s issues is he’s incredibly lonely, and Sheldon’s forgiving him and befriending him causes him to become a better man.
  • Interrupted Suicide: Rainbow Randolph tries to commit suicide by lighting himself on fire after drenching himself with gasoline, until a little girl urges him not to.
  • The Irish Mob: Played for Laughs. They talk Sheldon into giving Spinner a role on the show through intimidation, but they end up being grateful and take out the garbage trying to kill him.
  • It's All About Me: Rainbow Randolph can't get over the fact that he's been fired from his job, doesn't blame himself for causing it, and thinks he can bounce back into his time slot once he removes Sheldon from the picture. He spends much of the movie accusing Sheldon of stealing his fame.
    Randolph: I'm Rainbow fucking Randolph!
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold:
    • Tommy Cotter, leader of the Irish Mob and very protective of those she considers her friends and family.
    • Rainbow Randolph is revealed to be this after Sheldon befriends him, going as far as to prevent Buggy Ding-Dong from assassinating him out of gratitude, and can’t say no to kids’ requests for autographs on the way to do so.
  • Jerk With A Heart Of Jerk: Burke Bennett, Sheldon's agent and the guy who eventually tries to get him killed.
  • Kids' Show Mascot Parody: Sheldon Mopes/Smoochy is, as mentioned, a Barney knockoff. While this movie was marketed as an anti-Barney comedy, Mopes is actually depicted as a heroic figure whose good-hearted demeanor brightens people's lives.
  • Large Ham: Robin Williams, natch. After Randolph gets fired and spirals out of control, Williams plays every moment he's on screen going over the top with Randolph as much as he can, whether he's joyful or losing his mind.
  • Laughably Evil: Robin Williams as Villain Protagonist Rainbow Randolph, not to mention the other mob-affiliated characters.
  • Manchild: Spinner. It's implied that his boxing career has...diminished his mental capacity.
  • Meaningful Name: Randolph Smiley often has a big grin on his face. Now, that does not mean he's happy. Far from it.
  • Nice Character, Mean Actor: Rainbow Randolph, and how. He's a beloved kids show host, but disregards them as "booger eaters", is a vulgar alcoholic, and goes through great lengths to destroy Sheldon's career.
  • 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 Me This Time: Randolph wasn't involved in Spinner's murder, but he's already tried screwing over Sheldon publicly so many times that everyone thinks he's the culprit. Hence, the cops order a manhunt on him.
  • Not My Driver: Randolph poses as a limo driver and drives Sheldon to a "gig" that really screws up his career...
  • Not So Above It All: If what Rainbow says is true, prior to Smoochy, Straw Feminist Nora has slept around with every single kid show host, including Randolph.
  • Off with His Head!: The ultimate fate of Merv Green when The Irish Mob chops his head off in retaliation for assassinating Spinner Dunn. Overlaps with Cringe Comedy when Sheldon learns what happened.
    Sheldon: I don't think I feel so good about this all of a sudden, Tommy.
    Roy: Then we took his head and played a little...
    Sheldon: Okay, that's, uh, that's definitely more information than I really cared to have at this point, thanks.
  • Oh, Crap!: Sheldon's jaw drops when he realizes he's performing at a Nazi rally.
  • O.O.C. 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.
  • The Pollyanna: Sheldon - it takes an assassination attempt to make him hit the Rage Breaking Point.
  • 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 Parade of Hope's control of the ice show racket.
    • In a way, the Smoochy ice show as well. Instead of the usual combined sweetness and humor of an ice show for kids, Sheldon wrote a full opera about everything that happened since he got his TV show, complete with suits throwing money at him, two-hundred-foot Nazi banners, and a prima donna in full Viking gear singing a lament for Moochy.
  • Single Woman Seeks Good Man: Nora finds herself falling for Sheldon the more she sees that he's the real thing and not a fake like countless others before him.
  • Skyward Scream: The Atomic F-Bomb mentioned above and another one before that: "Oh, God! What does it all mean?"
  • Spiritual Successor: To Blake Edwards' S.O.B., another Black Comedy satire on showbiz, the Sanity Slippage of a member of the business and a faded Subverted Kids' Show star.
  • Straw Feminist: Nora Wells, the executive producer for Smoochy the Rhino. Though she has an excuse, and she gets better once she realizes that Sheldon is the real deal.
  • Subverted Kids' Show: God knows Randolph tries to pull this on Smoochy's show several times.
  • Too Much Information: Understandably, this is Sheldon's reaction when he learns The Irish Mob beheaded Merv Green.
  • Took a Level in Kindness: Nora, Tommy and Randolph were initially antagonistic towards Mopes, but they eventually warmed up to him at the end.
  • Villain Protagonist: Robin Williams as Rainbow Randolph, natch. He's the guy who wants Smoochy to meet his death, after all. Doubles as Unsympathetic Comedy Protagonist – while he's a pitiful failure, he's a humorous one with a brash personality.
  • Voicemail Confusion: Lampshaded, when Nora calls Sheldon earlier in the film, and gets Sheldon saying "Hello" on the line, she begins to speak until she hears "I'm just kidding; it's an answering machine." Fortunately the recording lists where his upcoming gigs will be located, so Nora copies down one of the addresses so she can meet him in person.
  • 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!