A confused tone prevents this film from ever being truly funny. At its best it’s mildly entertaining. At its worst it’s awkward, and tries too hard to find humour where there is none. There are just so many characters at play here, all trying (and failing) to be funny.
Over the years I’ve noticed that Hollywood films tend to make a couple of big mistakes:
- They waste the talent
- Catherine Keener is always great, this is no exception, but all her screen time here is wasted on dud lines.
- Edward Norton is a great performer but wasn’t really right.
- Robin Williams only gets to be crazy, and all his scenes are improvised. This is fine but we’ve seen him do better, and he’s perfectly capable of pulling off more serious scenes when needed. It just wasn’t asked of him. Weird considering he’s the villain.
- They botch the ending
- The film felt like it was ending for about an hour.
- It’s unexciting. If you’re going to have a frantic comedy ending, make it either funny or unique. This was neither and it started to lull me to sleep. You just want it all to end because you checked out ten minutes ago.
Death To Smoochy loses sight of its goal early on. Is it truly a black comedy? I don’t think so; it feels more like a family film where they are allowed to swear. Is it supposed to have a touching message? Judging by its irreverent tone I’d say no, but there are so many scenes where DeVito seems to be trying to find one. None of it makes sense and it’s frustrating to watch.
I should add the odd fact that this cost over $50m to make; more than, say, Die Hard. I feel like this sums up the attitude that went into making the picture. The pool of money and talent was endless. They had the means to throw every idea they could into it, so they did. This isn’t an awful movie, but it’s forgettable. Not a good trait at all for a comedy.