Death To Smoochy (2002)

(In theaters, April 2002) There’s a really good reason why dark comedies don’t enjoy much success at the box-office: For every successful Get Shorty or Pulp Fiction, there are dozen of film that don’t understand that violent death with winks don’t necessarily equal big laughs. In Death To Smoochy‘s case, someone forgot that it makes more than a sappy plot with murders and swear words to be funny, and ultimately, there are maybe three laughs in the whole film. Oh, the narrative foundation is promising; corrupt kid shows, the Irish mob, dwarves, a huge purple rhino, ice-skating and a kid’s show host groupie. What makes everything fall apart is the dry and dour tone in which everything is handled: It’s as if an accountant got hold of a Simpsons episode and tailored it to cut all the laughs. What doesn’t help is the sheer irritating nature of nearly everyone in the film, from a pestilent Robin Williams (even though he should get accolades for moving away from his amiable screen presence of late) to a grating brain-damaged ex-boxer. True, Edward Norton, Catherine Keener and New York are as good as ever. But the whole film surrounding them is tedious and annoying. The finale is especially vexing, as it forgets its own nature in favour of an all-sweet finish. A lot of wasted potential for this one…

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