Robin William’s dark comedy Death to Smoochy, released in 2002, just dropped on Tubi, one of the largest free movie and TV streaming services in the US, available through Roku, Apple TV, Fire TV, and even Xbox and PlayStation. Pretty neat for those nostalgic about the Robin Williams classics.
Robin Williams is a horrible children’s host in Death to Smoochy, one of the best parodies of children’s television and it’s free on Tubi.
Robin William’s Death to Smoochy is a 2002 satirical black comedy crime movie directed by the legendary actor Danny DeVito, with Robin Williams in the lead role as “Rainbow” Rudolph Smiley, a host of a popular children’s television show. The whole narrative of the movie is actually a satire, as the title is one of the best known for its unique take on the darker side of the world of children’s television programming and the things we fail to see when the cameras turn off.
Namely, despite appearing friendly and playful on-screen, Robin William’s character, Smiley, is an alcoholic and a criminal in real life. After he’s arrested by the FBI for accepting bribes, Smiley is fired from his show, the show gets canceled, and he’s thrown out on the street and left homeless. The studio decides to hire a “squeaky-clean” host named Smoochy the Rhino, who is basically the polar opposite of Smiley—not only is he uniquely sincere, he’s dedicated to providing quality content for the children’s entertainment program.
Smoochy’s show quickly becomes a success, with Smiley seeing Smoochy’s rise to fame as a personal insult and professional threat, becoming vengefully obsessed with ruining Smoochy’s career. However, he soon realizes that Smoochy is also becoming a victim to the corrupt and dark side of children’s television, and through a series of events—we’d like to avoid as many spoilers as possible—Robin Williams’ Death to Smoochy concludes to a favorable, happy ending.
Edward Norton joins Robin Williams in Death to Smoochy, which was directed by the legendary Danny DeVito.
Robin William’s Death to Smoochy is somewhat of a brilliant piece of cinematography, perhaps not for its script, but for its depiction of the corporate and commercial elements behind kids’ TV, contrasting the perceived innocence and wholesomeness such programs offer with the darker, more cynical, and sometimes outright criminal stuff going on behind the scenes. In the end, the story delves into themes of morality, corruption, revenge, and the challenges of maintaining personal integrity in a commercial world.
But the thematic narrative isn’t the only thing Death to Smoochy provided the audiences with; it was a notable departure from Robin Williams’ usual, family-friendly performances. Admittedly, Death to Smoochy wasn’t the first time the actor portrayed darker or more antagonistic roles. His performances in 1991’s The Fisher King and 1996’s The Secret Agent, while not villainous, displayed a complex range of emotions, including negative emotions, with moments of intensity and darkness.
Considering those movies were released before Death to Smoochy, the dark comedy now stands as a perfect transition from family-friendly roles in movies such as Mrs. Doubtfire, Flubber, or Jumanji, to more chilling performances in subsequent films. The first that come to mind are 2002’s Insomnia and One-Hour Photo, which were actually released the very same year as Death to Smoochy.
What makes these releases so significant in Robin Williams’ cinematography is the fact that they really showcased his ability to portray genuinely malevolent or even disturbing characters.
Robin Williams has countless hits to his name, but Death to Smoochy wasn’t one of them, as it only earned $8.3 million at the box office.
Unfortunately, despite the brilliant acting, Death to Smoochy didn’t really fare well with the critics, and the Rotten Tomatoes critical consensus states that the talent involved can’t save a script that has nothing but a promising premise.
Many have called the movie bad, miscalculated, and lacking any connection with any possible audience—which is a bit odd, considering that the majority of the audience actually liked the movie. Then again, it’s hard not to like a movie with the actor that made Schindler’s List possible.
Regardless, despite the audiences’ approval and generally positive score, Robin William’s Death to Smoochy was a massive box office bomb. The film received a wide release by playing in more than 2,000 theaters in the US alone, barely earning a total of $8.3 million against its $50 million budget, with negligible non-US earnings. Still, if you’re interested in watching the film that earned Robin Williams a Razzie nomination, you can check Death to Smoochy on Tubi streaming.