John Depko and Ryan Gilmore


April 04, 2002

Keep your kids away from 'Smoochy'

Danny DeVito's "Death to Smoochy" is a strange dark comedy that

totally skewers the world of children's television. It takes direct aim

at popular kiddie shows that feature animal characters. Surrogates for

Barney and Big Bird are placed squarely in DeVito's wicked gun sights.

In this malicious satire, all the stars of the Kid TV Network are

foulmouthed drunks, drug addicts or crazy men whose vices lead to their


downfall. This R-rated movie is definitely not for youngsters.

Robin Williams is frenetic as the hate-filled Rainbow Randolph Smiley,

who ends up broke and homeless after being busted for taking bribes from

parents who want their kids to be on his show. Enter Ed Norton as a sappy

and idealistic entertainer for kids who is hired by the network to

replace Randolph and save their ratings.

Norton puts on a baggy pink costume and becomes Smoochy the Rhino, the

politically correct kid show host. DeVito plays the sleazy agent who

tries to take Smoochy down the tainted path of his previous clients.

Wild plot developments unfold at a frantic pace. There are dueling

gangs of mobsters, a collection of neo-Nazis, a brain-damaged prize

fighter, dwarfs and murders played for laughs. A bizarre mix of scenes

and characters that are occasionally very funny, but always peculiar.

Bad language and crude sight gags abound. Amusing but vulgar, the

target audience for this fare would appear to be teenage boys with short

attention spans.

As director and star of this effort, DeVito seems to be desperately

trying to recapture the zany atmosphere of his past hits: "The War of the

Roses" and "Throw Mama from the Train." He is only partly successful.

o7 "Death to Smoochy" is rated R for language and sexual references.

f7 * JOHN DEPKO is a Costa Mesa resident and a senior investigator

for the Orange County public defender's office.

'Panic Room" pays off in suspense

"Panic Room," the new film by director David Fincher, never lacks for

suspense. Fincher, whose previous work includes "Fight Club," "The Game,"

and "Seven," once again succeeds in making the audience anxious and

uncomfortable. In any other context, provoking such feelings would be

tantamount to complete failure, but in a suspense-thriller they are

necessary elements that are so often lacking in today's predictable

formula films.

The film revolves around a room designed to be a fortress against home

invasion in an immense Manhattan townhouse. However, the audience learns,

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