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April 01, 2002 - Image 8

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The Michigan Daily, 2002-04-01

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8A - The Michigan Daily - Monday, April 1, 2002

ARTS

0

'Smoochy' lacks satirical edge,
allows star Williams to shine

0

By Andy Taylor-Fabe
Daily Film Editor
"Death to Smoochy," a dark, satirical tale of the
corruption in kids' programming, should have been
made a few years ago at the height of the anti-Barney
campaign, when you couldn't go any-
where without seeing signs or cartoons a
calling for the death and preferably vio-
lent dismemberment of everyone's least
favorite big purple dinosaur. Unfortu-
nately, "Smoochy," which could have DEA
been the ultimate middle finger to cos- SMc
tumed kids' show hosts, beats us to death
with a few repeated jokes. Despite bril- At Shoi
liant performances by Edward Norton Qua
and Robin Williams, who is finally (and
hopefully permanently) breaking free of Warn
his smarmy, family-friendly roles,
"Smoochy" doesn't deliver.

Williams plays Rainbow Randolph (imagine Cap-
tain Kangaroo on mescaline), the colorful and ener-
getic star of the most popular kids show on TV He
also happens to be a foul-mouthed drunk who takes

bribes from
kids on hi,

A*

TH TO
)OCHY
wcase and
lity 16
ner Bros.
smack" to

a over-enthusiastic parents who want their
s show. After Randolph is busted by the
government and fired from the show for
his various crimes and overall corrup-
tion, the network is desperate to find a
replacement - someone squeaky clean.
Executives Frank Stokes (Jon Stewart)
and Nora Wells (Catherine Keener,
"Being John Malkovich") decide on
Sheldon Mopes a.k.a. Smoochy (Edward
Norton), a big purple rhino who sings
about healthy food and wholesome fami-
ly life. At this point, however, Smoochy's
major gig is a Coney Island methadone
clinic, where he sings about "kicking
the tune of "She'll be comin' 'round the

mountain."
Stokes and Wells give Sheldon his big break, and
Smoochy is an instant success. With millions of ador-
ing fans and a chance to voice his support of soy and
friendship, Sheldon is on top of the world. Unfortu-
nately, he has two major problems. Rainbow Ran-
dolph, now homeless and bitter, is nursing a major
grudge against the carpet-bagging rhino. His thirst
for revenge leads him to try to undermine Smoochy
in any way he can, including accusations of Nazism
and sabotaging the show's "cookie time" with treats
in the shape of certain parts of the male anatomy.
To make things worse, Merv Green (Harvey Fier-
stein), the head of the Parade of Hope foundation and
corrupt businessman, owned a piece of Randolph
during his time as host, and he has every intention of
getting a taste of Smoochy's financial success. He
sends an agent named Burke (Danny Devito) to gain
Sheldon's trust so they can bring him over to the dark
side of crappy merchandise and lucrative ice shows.
Director Danny DeVito and writer Adam Resnick
("Cabin Boy," "The Larry Sanders Show") try to fill
the movie with biting satire of kids' programming
and commercialization in general, but with a few
exceptions, it has no teeth, and the uneven script pro-
ceeds to gum you to death with self-conscious dia-
logue and one bizarre scene after another.

Edward Norton and a bunch of kids, before the penis-cookie incident.

"Death to Smoochy" is dark, but it isn't as dark as
it should be. Despite the presence of violence, adult
themes and language that would make a sailor blush,
the movie never commits to one course: Gritty'or
glossy, sarcastic or sappy? Every time it seems like it
could be getting somewhere with its message or its
characters, it veers off, concentrating on Sheldon's
Irish mob friends or Sheldon's ridiculous relationship
with Nora.
Williams is the bright point of the film. Much in
the same way that a formerly annoying child star can
redefine himself by playing a drug addict on a cop
show, Williams is able to recapture his energy and
show his darker side, casting aside his saccharine
irony-free personas of "Patch Adams" and "Bicenten-
nial Man."
As strange as this may sound, you can feel your
spirits rising and your faith in Williams returning
with every growl and utterance of the f-word or "cock

and balls." Unfortunately, Williams doesn't always
play the disturbed Randolph as a believable character.
At times, he seems to be doing one of his famous
impressions, mimicking the twisted, angry man
instead of actually being him.
Norton is hilarious as the innocent Sheldon, whose
golly-gee-whiz personality meshes perfectly with
Norton's ability to deadpan. He compares Captain
Kangaroo to Jesus without giving us any sense that
he gets the joke, adding, "Both of them worked so
hard. Especially Jesus." His songs that he sings to the
kids, which he co-wrote, are hilarious and sometimes
slightly disturbing, e.g. "My Stepdad's not mean; he's
just adjusting."
Unfortunately, the nuggets of wisdom and moments
of comic genius are overshadowed by an overzealous
attempt to cram as much satire into the film as possi-
ble, which leaves you wondering what the film is
really poking fun at.

p.
0

,court y 01f Va
Nope, still looks like the guy from "Cadillac Man."

I

Two Towers' teaser at
tail-end of Fellowship

'Donnie Darko' finds second
life on impressive DVD release

By Luke Smith
Daily Arts Editor

In the aftermath of last week's
74th Annual Academy awards, Peter
Jackson has slipped something extra
into his Oscar winning "Lord of the
Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring."
Starting last weekend, moviegoers
were given another incentive to see
the epic. A four-minute teaser of the
forthcoming "Lord of the Rings:
The Two Towers" was added in as
the last reel of the film before the
final credits.

The added reel is a mouth-water-
ing treat of what is to come this
December when "The Two Towers"
hits theaters.
This extra reel begins spinning
immediately after the final shot
showing Frodo Baggins d Sam-
wise Gamgee descending the rocky
cliffs into Mordor. After a fade-to,
black, the tease begins. Without
spoiling the contents of the teaser,
viewers will be treated to myriad
shots from the second film in Jack-
son's trilogy. The teaser also serves
to introduce viewers to new charac-

By Jeff Dickerson
Daily Arts Editor
"Donnie Darko" was released in
October of last year without an
ounce of publicity promoting the
3=famE4t debuted in a truly limited
release on only 58 screens around
the country. While the film was
well received by critics, it was not
enough to bring people into the-
aters and the film earned a meager

Aragom, contemplating his coolness.
ters altogether. If the teaser is any
indication, "Lord of the Rings: The
Two Towers" will be as good, if not
better than "The Fellowship of the
Ring."

F3 D l n no n War La =l l - arwac4A i. +as-v

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Why Wait?

Lease Now for Fall and relax!

* Low winter rates
" Westside location near U of M
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Call 734-761-1897

$500,000 at the boxv
office. Maybe it was "
the lack of a major star
that prevented "Donnie DONNI
Darko" from succeed- D
ing. Maybe it was the
deficiency of the Picture/Soul
advertising. Or per- Movie: **
haps it was that people Features: *
are simply not interest-_
ed in the story of a
teenage boy troubled by visions of
a giant bunny rabbit named Frank.
The year is 1988. The town is
Middlesex, Va. Donnie Darko
(Jake Gyllenhaal, "October Sky")
is a high school kid with emotional
problems, uncertain of his purpose
in life. One night, Donnie is led to
a golf course for an unexpected
meeting with Frank, a giant bunny
rabbit who instructs him the world
will end in 28 days. While Donnie
is on the links chatting away with
the six-foot-tall hare, a jet engine
crashes into his bedroom, destroy-
ing a large portion of his family's
upscale suburban home. Richard
Kelly's "Donnie Darko" is not your
typical matinee fare.
Writer/Director Kelly is one of
the most promising young directors

E
V
end
*

in years. For a feature film debut,
"Donnie Darko" exhibits the polish
of a seasoned veteran. The film has
a distinct visual appearance due to
the use of a special kind of film
used for low lighting situations. The
visual composition of the film cap-
tures the essence of the late eight-
ies, as does the soundtrack of Tears
for Fears and Duran Duran retro
classics. The cast is strong through-
out, including Mary McDonnell
("Dances with
Wolves") as Mrs.
Darko, Drew Barry-
DARKO more ("E.T.") and
rD Noah Wyle ("E.R.") as
Donnie's teachers,
l: **** Patrick Swayze ("Dirty
Dancing") as a self-
**y help guru and Oscar
nominee Katharine
Ross ("The Graduate")
as Donnie's psychiatrist.
For those who missed the low
budget film in theaters, "Donnie
Darko" is now available on DVD in
an impressive release from 20th
Century Fox. The presentation of
the film is excellent, with sharp
visuals and a prominent 5.1 sur-
round sound audio track. Menus
are well designed, keeping with the
visual theme of the film. While the
standard features of the DVD are
near perfection, the bread and but-
ter of the disc are the abundant
extra features.
"Donnie Darko" includes two
commentary tracks, one with direc-
tor Kelly and star Jake Gyllenhaal,
the other with supporting cast
members including McDonnell,
Barrymore and Ross. The com-

mentaries provide a wealth of
information on narrative questions
and the making of the film. There
are over 20 deleted scenes with
director's commentary, most of
which are extraneous additions to
previous scenes. Other features
include a music video, production
stills, filmographies, TV spots and
a theatrical trailer. Far and away
the most entertaining feature is the
full version of Jim Cunningham's
(Patrick Swayze) "Cunning
Visions" videos. The intentionally
cheesy infomercials include a
spoof audio commentary, mocking
the traditional DVD commentary.
"Donnie Darko" suffered from
ill timing. The scene where the
engine of a 747 comes plumment-
ing onto Donnie's queen bed was
too reminiscent of the accident in
Queens that took place shortly
after Sept. 11.
If originality meant anything in
film, "Donnie Darko" would be
stamped with an array of awards
and lucrative box office receipts.
Sadly, originality is looked over in
favor of formulaic plots and
sequels in Hollywood today while
films like "Donnie Darko" go in
and out of theaters relatively unno-
ticed. The film is hard to classify
and ascribe a genre to, part of the
reason why "Donnie Darko" failed
financially. Thanks in part to a
comprehensive DVD, Richard
Kelly's time-traveling-sci-fi-
bunny-rabbit-opus might
end up becoming a cult
classic.
~auP

01

A

Courtesy of 20th Century Fox

i

Jake Gvllenhaal thinks Patrick Swavze is the antichrist.

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