‘Smoochy’ rocks, audiences don’t and lesbians are cool

I read some reviews of Death to Smoochy before I saw it last Sunday, and based one what I read I wasn’t expecting greatness. Out of 10 reviews in papers ranging from The New York Times to The Hollywood Reporter, five critics gave Smoochy a letter grade of D. Only two gave it a B and the other three gave it a C.

This type of across-the-board dissent for a film would normally send another moviegoer in the direction of something stupid like Ice Age. But I make it a point to see every film of note – especially the ones starring Ed Norton and Robin Williams about a demented man who wants to kill Barney. That’s not to say all Robin Williams films are good, mind you; did anyone see Flubber?

But after seeing the brilliance that is the comic gem Death to Smoochy, it made me wonder what I saw that Roger Ebert and the like didn’t.

Well, who wouldn’t like Smoochy? Norton plays the titular do-gooder who believes in being a role model for children and consumes only healthy drinks and non-processed food. In other words, he’s not cut out for the greedy, seedy world of children’s television.

I mean, the whole concept is classic: Bitter ex-TV star Rainbow Randolph is jealous of Rhino-suited Sheldon Mopes, a.k.a. Smoochy, because he is now the star of Rainbow’s old television program. You see, Rainbow got fired when he was caught taking a bribe from parents who wanted their kid on TV.

Danny DeVito directed this hilarious romp that pits Williams as a villain and Norton as a Texan-accented (think Matthew McConaughey) schlub. Williams gets abused in every scene and his knack for physical comedy has not been depleted since his days as Jakob the Liar and Bicentennial Man.

The movie’s humor is dark. It is dry. But most of all -it’s hilarious.

My point is that the negative reviews affected its opening weekend gross: a measly $4.3 million. And that’s sad.

But what’s worse is what happened when I saw Big Trouble (see review to your left). I hate going to advance screenings. On one hand, it’s good to see films before they come out so I can review them for the date they are released. Other the other hand though, the crowd that attends these previews is the absolute worst.

First of all, radio stations sponsor most of these screenings. And what do radio stations like to do before movies? That’s right, give away free crap. Which means, the audience that is supposed to be calm and quiet when the movie starts gets all excited and riled up before the show. The end result: Tampa Tribune film critic Bob Ross, myself and my girlfriend get the misfortune to sit directly in front of this rude family with a baby.

When Bob turned around and politely shushed the annoying mother, she said, “Oh, no he didn’t.” Then later, after the baby had been screaming, I gestured for them to remove the child from the theater. Her response: “It’s a baby.” All I could say was, “That’s my point.” And of course, that just encouraged them more.

But not all was lost because the preview audience was of the more mature variety for the screening of Kissing Jessica Stein (see review to your left).

I really liked this movie. And so did my lesbian friend whom I took to gauge how well the gay community is represented in the film – that, and the fact that she’s smarter than me and I simply enjoy her company.

Anyway, she said was very realistic because it brought senitivity to issues that are brought up when straight women become lesbians. She said from personal experience that when it comes to telling your friends – and your mother – it is a major internal conflict that sometimes even causes problems in the relationship.

In the film, Jessica grows as a person and changes her ways as a result of her relationship with a lesbian.

I just wish those annoying women at the Big Trouble screening would find their own outlet to grow up themselves. If not, maybe Smoochy’s killer can off them next. But hey, that’s just my opinion, man.

Contact William Albritton at oraclewill@yahoo.com