Tag Archives: death to smoochy

Death To Smoochy

Death To Smoochy

DeathToSmoochy1

Today’s feature is Danny DeVito’s twisted depiction of the cracked world of children’s entertainment: Death to Smoochy.

Death to Smoochy was written by Adam Resnick, who is best known for the movie Cabin Boy and his extensive writing work on The Late Show with David Letterman, The Larry Sanders Show, and Saturday Night Live.

Death to Smoochy was directed by noted actor Danny DeVito, who was also behind such films as War of the Roses, Matilda, Hoffa, and Throw Momma From The Train.

The cinematographer for the movie was Anastas Michos, who also shot Keeping the Faith and The Big Kahuna, and worked as a camera operator on such films as Quiz Show, Lean on Me, and Born on the Fourth of July.

The editor on Death to Smoochy was Jon Poll, who is known for cutting films like Captain America, Monkeybone, Cabin Boy, Meet the Parents, and Mystery, Alaska.

The team of producers behind the film included Andrew Lazar (American Sniper, Jonah Hex, Confessions of A Dangerous Mind), Peter Macgregor-Scott (The Jerk, Revenge of the Nerds, Batman & Robin, Under Siege), Doug Davison (The Grudge, The Departed), John Kreidman (Watchmen, The Smurfs 2, Zookeeper), and Joshua Levinson (Matilda, Jonah Hex, Gattaca).

The musical score for Death to Smoochy was composed by David Newman, who also scored such films as Galaxy Quest, The Mighty Ducks, Jingle All The Way, Ice Age, Tommy Boy, Norbit, The Spirit, Serenity, Heathers, War of the Roses, and Matilda, among many others.

The visual effects team for the movie was composed of Lincoln Kupchak (Red Planet, Blood Diamond), John Mesa (Army of Darkness, Darkman), Penny Mesa (Deep Blue Sea, Red Planet), William Mesa (976-EVIL, The Italian Job), Dan Novy (24, The Guardian), Jeffrey A. Okun (Suburban Commando, Shocker, Die Hard 2, Sphere), L. Elizabeth Powers (Son of the Mask, League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Daredevil), Liz Radley (Collateral, On Deadly Ground, Batman & Robin), Ken Stranahan (Red Planet, Deep Blue Sea, Son of the Mask), James Tittle (Suspect Zero, Red Eye, Dreamcatcher, Gigli, Stealth), and Jeffrey White (Holes, Red Planet).

deathtosmoochy5

The special effects unit for Death to Smoochy included such names as Taku Dazai (Slither, Dracula 2000), Aaron Dinsmore (The Incredible Hulk, Dracula 2000), Walter Klassen (Jason X), David Kleinstein (Frequency, Boardwalk Empire), David Loveday (Blues Brothers 2000, X-Men, Lucky Number Slevin, 300), Jim McGillivary (Pompeii, Silent Hill), Laird McMurray (Crimson Peak, Pixels, Pacific Rim, Stuck, The Dead Zone), Jim Peacock (Saw V, Tommy Boy), John Poulter (Secret Window, Taking Lives, Stuck), David Reaume (Glitter, Chicago, Silent Hill, Kick-Ass, Devil), John Stifanich (The Substitute 2, Signs, Boardwalk Empire), and Stephen Wallace (Scott Pilgrim vs. The World).

The makeup effects team for the film included Marlene Aarons (Repo Men, Max Payne), Tim Mogg (Glitter, Death Wish V), Ve Neill (Ed Wood, Beetlejuice, Laserblast, Kingdom of the Spiders), Pipsan Ayotte (Pacific Rim, The Love Guru), and Selena Evans-Miller (Major Payne, Matinee, The Waterboy).

The deep cast of Death to Smoochy was made up of Robin Williams (Insomnia, Patch Adams, Good Will Hunting, Dead Poets Society, One Hour Photo, The Birdcage, The Fisher King), Edward Norton (Fight Club, Primal Fear, The Illusionist, Rounders, Red Dragon), Danny DeVito (Batman Returns, One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest, L.A. Confidential, It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia, Twins), Jon Stewart (The Faculty, The Daily Show), Pam Ferris (Matilda, Children of Men, The Raven), Catherine Keener (Being John Malkovich, Capote, Hamlet 2, The Soloist, Captain Phillips), and Harvey Fierstein (Independence Day), among others.

Reportedly, Jim Carrey turned down a role in Death To Smoochy in order to make the film The Majestic, which released in 2001.

Robin Williams earned a Golden Raspberry nomination for worst actor for his role of Rainbow Randolph in Death To Smoochy, but wound up losing out to Hayden Christensen’s Anakin Skywalker from Attack of the Clones.

deathtosmoochy3

The budget for Death To Smoochy was reportedly $50 million, of which it made back less than $8.5 million theatrically. Needless to say, it was a massive financial flop.

At the time of its release, critics were really tough on the twisted dark comedy, earning it aggregate scores of 38% from MetaCritic and 42% from Rotten Tomatoes. In particular, Roger Ebert gave the movie a scathing review, which opened as follows:

“Only enormously talented people could have made “Death to Smoochy.” Those with lesser gifts would have lacked the nerve to make a film so bad, so miscalculated, so lacking any connection with any possible audience. To make a film this awful, you have to have enormous ambition and confidence, and dream big dreams.”

That said, public perception towards the movie has softened over time, and it currently holds an IMDb rating of 6.4 alongside a Rotten Tomatoes audience score of 66%.

deathtosmoochy4

I personally have fond memories of watching this movie on the cable channel Comedy Central, where it played in numerous blocks over the years. This heavy replay time almost certainly helped win over much of its current cult following.

Another reason for the movie’s cult popularity is similarly tied to Comedy Central: the massive rise in popularity of Jon Stewart, who was only a couple of years into his run at The Daily Show when the film released. Throughout the show’s run, he would often reference his involvement with the movie as an example of his acting (in)experience, exposing it to new people with each passing mention.

Most of the criticism leveled against Death to Smoochy at the time of its release focused on its cynical and allegedly “mean-spirited” screenplay. Personally, I’ve never quite understood those complaints: the story is darkly comedic, but it isn’t “mean-spirited” towards any particular characters, outside of the deserving corporate flunkies and would-be murderers.

My biggest issue with the film, if you can call it that, is with the acting. Both Norton and Williams are beyond over-the-top in their portrayals, to the point that they both seem like caricatures more than humans, like the yin and yang of overacting. That said, the lack of identifiable humanity and excess of cheesy showmanship displayed oddly fits both of their characters well. As children’s entertainers, of course they would be off-putting, eccentric, and clown-like. I have to assume, because of the immense talent on all sides of the camera here, that this is what the team had in mind for the characters, and that they were portrayed as intended. Regardless, both men come off as difficult to relate to, which I imagine didn’t help the movie with general audiences.

The first thing I noticed upon re-watching Death to Smoochy is how deliberately shot and colorful it is: every sequence is meticulously planned for blocking and color, certainly more-so than you would expect from a comedic film like this. Part of this was undoubtedly DeVito’s vision for the film, but the commentary included on the DVD reveals that cinematographer Anastas Michos had more than a little bit of influence on each individual shot.

deathtosmoochy2

Overall, this was niche movie made with a mass appeal budget. In general, dark comedies won’t fly with the movie-going masses, which was an error with the very inception of the picture. That said, the people with whom the movie resonates absolutely delight in it, and time has certainly shown favorably on the film, making it a bit of a cult classic.

If you like dark comedies or enjoy Danny DeVito’s other directorial efforts, then this is a must-see flick. The humor is very dark, which turned many away from it, but if you go in knowing what to expect, then you are far more likely to enjoy it for what it is.

Bargain Bin(ge): CD Warehouse (Marietta, GA)

Marietta, GA sits just Northwest of the Atlanta, GA beltline, just on the edge of the greater metropolitan area. It home to one of the few remaining CD Warehouse locations in the area, along with sister shops in Duluth and Roswell. I’ve been to a few different locations of the chain in Tennessee and North Carolina over the years, but they have been rapidly dying off in recent years as they have generally failed to adapt to the new landscape of the business.

ware14

As far as quality goes, it has always been a crapshoot with CD Warehouses for me. Sometimes they would have terrible selections and awful prices, and other times they would have a wealth of off-the-wall flicks on sale. After wrapping up at DragonCon, I decided to drop by the Marietta, GA location on my way home to see what they might have laying around. (Side note: conventions like DragonCon are garbage for DVD hunting. You might find a bootleg of a rare video, but you are just as well-off hunting online for how much vendors will charge and how bad the quality will be. Unless you want the novelty of directly purchasing a movie from Troma, don’t buy movies at cons.)

ware15Lucky for me, this turned out to be a fantastic haul, and probably the best I have ever pulled out of a CD Warehouse.

ware18

ware16

ware17

Death To Smoochy

ware11

With the death of Robin Williams last year, I feel like people have been going back to give this movie another shot. Critics at the time panned it, but it has gained some cult acclaim over the years after running on Comedy Central through countless late night blocks. This may very well have been a nail in the coffin of Danny DeVito’s directing career, as he has since careened into the world of self-parody. However, I have always liked the twisted take on the competitive world of children’s entertainment, and personally regard it as on par with (or better than) DeVito’s other directorial works. That said, it has been a while, and I’ll be interested to see how it holds up now.

Robot Jox

ware9

Until the Shout! Factory release of a Blu-Ray this summer, it was not particularly easy to come by a physical copy of Stuart Gordon’s Robot Jox. Back when I reviewed it, I happened to come across the flick on YouTube, but I won’t deny that I desperately wanted a physical copy of this cult classic robot beat-em-up. Sure enough, I finally have myself a copy of the original DVD release! This is a movie that I can’t recommend highly enough, and it is nearly mandatory viewing for fans of good-bad movies. I might still pick up that blu-ray soon as well…

Gamera: Guardian of the Universe / Gamera 2: Attack of Legion / Gamera 3: Revenge of Iris

ware12

This is a collection of the Hesei era Gamera movies, also known as the Gamera trilogy. I did a marathon of the hilarious Showa era Gamera movies last year, but I have been hearing that these Hesei flicks are actually pretty fantastic watches. Now that I have copies (on Blu-Ray no less), I’ll have to finally give them a watch.

Batman: The Movie

ware10

We all know this movie. The feature-length spotlight on Adam West’s campy version of Batman is unforgettable, from the cast of villains to the giant bomb to the shark repellent bat spray. At the very least, this movie is a nostalgia trip of the highest order.

Wolfen

ware7

This is arguably the most under-appreciated werewolf movie out there, and it is also a flick I have never had the chance to sink my teeth into. I’ve heard a lot of good things about it, but had never come across a copy of it until I spotted it here.

Bad Influence

ware8

James Spader and Rob Lowe are two guys that I just can’t help but like, regardless of the movie or television show they pop up in. David Koepp, the writer on this movie, has been responsible for everything from the Dolph Lundgren cult classic I Come In Peace to blockbusters like Jurassic Park and Mission: Impossible, as well as the tragically underrated Nic Cage / Brian De Palma movie Snake Eyes. Director Curtis Hanson went on to helm flicks like L.A. Confidential and 8 Mile, so I have every reason to believe that this is going to be a movie that is worth my time. It made some money back when it released, but never got big enough to enter the public consciousness, which is probably why I have never heard much about it. The premise and casting has me curious though, so I’m eager to see what it has to offer.

Reign of Fire

ware6

The career of Matthew McConaughey in the era before the McConaissance was a dark and strange place. Back in 2002, he starred alongside fellow future-stars Christian Bale and Gerard Butler in the bizarre dystopian fantasy film Reign of Fire. Some people remember this flick fondly, but critics and audiences at the time widely panned it. That said, reviews seem to have softened over the years, indicating that it may be time to give it another shot. I have’t watched it in roughly a decade, so I’m curious to see how it holds up.

Catch Me If You Can

ware5

Catch Me If You Can is one of my favorite Steven Spielberg movies, if not my hands-down favorite. Really. I think it is John WIlliams’s best score (or at least in the running), one of both Leo’s and Hanks’s best performances, and is one of the best biopics out there. It blends suspense, comedy, drama, and style effortlessly, and is a rare movie that seemed to please audiences and critics alike. For whatever reason, it often gets shoved aside when discussing the career of Spielberg, which I think is unfair. The movie is one of the most well-balanced films in his filmograpy, which is made of up of a mixture of man-child indulgences (E.T., 1941, Hook), blockbuster fodder (Jurassic Park, War of the Worlds) and excessively heavy dramas (Amistad, Schindler’s List, Munich) with not a whole lot in the middle ground. Catch Me If You Can showcases every side of Spielberg: his flair for drama, his love of child-like wonder, his heart for adventure, and his ability to create a film with the widest possible appeal. The more I think about it, the more I look forward to re-watching this flick.

Creepshow III

ware4

I know what you are thinking: “there was a Creepshow III?” As a matter of fact, there was! And no one in the entire universe gave half a damn, because it is absolute garbage. The movie released nearly 20 years after Creepshow 2 to absolutely no acclaim, and currently holds an abysmal score of 2.9 on IMDb, along with Rotten Tomatoes ratings of 0% from critics and 11% from audiences. The only things I know about it are that it exists and that it is nearly unwatchable, so I’ll be giving it a go soon enough.

Raising Cain

ware3

Brian De Palma has had a career filled with ups and downs. 1992’s Raising Cain released immediately following what was arguably his lowest low: 1990’s The Bonfire of the Vanities. It also immediately preceded a bit of a De Palma revival with Carlito’s Way and Mission Impossible, along with a personal favorite of mine, 1998’s Snake Eyes. I don’t know anything about this particular flick, but I’m interested to see where it falls on the wide spectrum of Brian De Palma’s career. From another angle, I’m interested to see how John Lithgow is in this movie. Audiences today can certainly buy him as a menacing presence since his acclaimed role on the television series Dexter, but 1992 was a very long time ago for Lithgow’s career. People might have recognized him from The Twilight Zone movie, or Harry and The Hendersons, or perhaps from Footloose. At this point, he hadn’t even become recognizable for his role on 3rd Rock From The Sun. Given his next role after this was as a villain in a Sylvester Stallone action flick (Cliffhanger), I’m pretty sure this didn’t break any boundaries for him. I’m sure it’ll be an interesting watch for his performance all the same, because he is not a man who is known for phoning it in.  I mean, just watch the trailer for this movie. Somehow, I think Lithgow will keep things entertaining.

Smokin’ Aces 2: Assassins’ Ball

ware1

Smokin’ Aces is, if you ask me, a damn fun crime movie. It isn’t a masterpiece by any means, but I’ve never not had a good time watching through it. Smokin Aces 2, on the other hand, is a very different story. I remember watching this on VOD when it first came out, and I’ve never gone back to it since. Honestly, I only remember brief flashes of it, and the feeling of unsurprising disappointment when all was said and done. Looking back at the cast list now, however, I’m curious to give it a re-watch. Ernie Hudson? Tom Berenger? Michael Parks? I recalled Vinnie Jones, but not the rest of these folks. Maybe there will be more to redeem it on this go-around?

I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead

ware2

The combination of director Mike Hodges and leading man Clive Owen worked wonders in the cult classic, Croupier. A few years later, the tandem tried to re-bottle the lightning with I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead, with a supporting cast that included Jonathan Rhys Meyers and Malcolm McDowell. Despite a few positive heralds, it generally didn’t fly with critics or audiences at the time, due primarily to its perceived dullness and a convoluted ending. I remember seeing this go in and out of my Netflix queue a few times over the years, but I never had a chance to sit down to watch it. I generally like Clive Owen’s work, particularly in crime dramas, and I am also a big fan of Malcolm McDowell when he isn’t phoning in a role for a paycheck. I’m interested to see if this slow-burner is deserving of its negative reputation.