Death to Smoochy (2002)

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Released 8-Jan-2003

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Comedy Menu Animation & Audio
Audio Commentary
Featurette-Behind The Scenes
Deleted Scenes-10
Outtakes
Multiple Angles-Interactive Ice Show (4)
Theatrical Trailer-3
Gallery-Magic Cookie Bag (6)
Listing-Cast & Crew
Easter Egg-Outtakes
DVD-ROM Extras
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 2002
Running Time 105:00
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (68:54) Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Danny DeVito
Studio
Distributor

Warner Home Video
Starring Robin Williams
Edward Norton
Catherine Keener
Danny DeVito
Jon Stewart
Case Amaray-Transparent-Secure Clip
RPI $34.95 Music David Newman


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
English for the Hearing Impaired
Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement Yes, heaps of KidNet products (well, they ARE annoying)
Action In or After Credits Yes, the credits start over the final scene.

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

"Direct To Video" three little words that are usually a euphemism for bad cinema. It is somewhat of a surprise, therefore, to see a movie such as Death To Smoochy head direct to video, and even more surprising when considering its stellar cast, consisting of Robin Williams in manic mode, Edward Norton, Danny DeVito (he also directs), and Catherine Keener. The most surprising aspect, however, is how a studio could consider this film not worthy of a theatrical release, while the likes of Halloween: Resurrection and the biggest flop of all time in the US The Adventures Of Pluto Nash both received a cinematic airing. The way films are selected for release is well beyond my understanding.

Certainly Death To Smoochy isn't perfect it is better as a concept than it is in the execution, but none the less provides an entertaining film that makes the most of a perfect opportunity to take an enormous swipe at the children's television industry. The premise of the film is simple and with wide appeal (let's face it, is there anyone out there who can honestly say they have never wished an ugly demise on a certain purple dinosaur?). Kids show host Rainbow Randolph (Robin Williams) has been caught taking bribes to put kids in prime positions in his show, and is thrown off the air. In an attempt to "clean up" the network heads go for clean-living simpleton Sheldon Mopes (Edward Norton) and his Smoochy the (fuchsia) Rhino character. Randolph, quickly loosing his sanity, sees Smoochy as the next thing to the devil, and sets out on a plan to bring down the Rhino, and win back his spot.

While the film as it is presented is funny, and a wickedly biting satire, it does not really live up to its promise, portraying Sheldon/Smoochy as too much of the good guy, and his clean living attitude is too much of a good thing. The opportunity was there to go to a very dark place, and make a true black comedy, but this film pulls its punches (in a very similar way to the recent Changing Lanes), rather going in for the kill. What it does provide are some very funny one-liners, and the opportunity to see Robin Williams in full-on manic mode for the first time in a long while. The performances of Edward Norton and the supporting cast are excellent, especially as they provide a far more sane backing for Williams' character to play off. Catherine Keener absolutely nails her hardened TV executive character, gradually showing more heart as the film goes on, often only through a look. Danny DeVito, when he steps out from behind the camera, is good as always in a small role as Sheldon's devious agent, while Jon Stewart steals virtually every scene he is in as the slimy TV boss.

This is a film that very much deserves checking out, and while it is not quite what it could have been, it is still far better than many films that do get a theatrical release. So don't be fooled do yourself a favour, and indulge in those fantasies to beat up on children's TV show hosts, and check out Death To Smoochy.

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Transfer Quality

Video

This is an excellent video transfer, making the film look amazing at least the direct to video treatment has saved us from a battered theatrical print.

Presented at 1.78:1, this is only a slight change from the original theatrical aspect ratio (that is, if you were lucky enough to live in a country where it did get a theatrical release). The transfer is 16x9 enhanced.

The transfer is very sharp, easily displaying all fine detail. Additionally, there is almost no visible grain at all, making for a crisp and clear image that is a pleasure to behold. Shadow detail is equally good, making the darkly lit scenes great to watch and full of atmosphere. There is no low level noise present.

Colours are excellent, with the night-time blacks being completely black, and the highlights being bright and vibrant. At the same time, scenes in the bar (such as the scene in which Randolph is busted) are sumptuous and rich in their visual expression. Cinematographer Anastas Michos has done a first rate job on this film.

There are no compression artefacts at all in this transfer, and only a very few film artefacts all almost invisible (such as at 7:52). Mild aliasing is slightly more common, but it is never severe or distracting, with instances such as the curb at 49:09, and the car at 72:22, being among the worst.

The subtitles are rather inaccurate, often straying from the spoken word, and in a comedy such as this, that is not a desirable situation.

This is an RSDL formatted disc with the layer change taking place at 68:54 during chapter 21. This is the second excellent layer change I have encountered in three reviews, as I did not detect it either when watching the movie or the commentary, and had to resort to computer-based searching to find it. It occurs on a static image with no sound, making it almost impossible to detect (although once you know where it is, the image does seem to be static a little too long).

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

About the best thing that can be said about this audio transfer is that it is serviceable. It does its job, but will certainly not be useful as a demo disc.

There are two audio tracks present on this disc. The first is the original English dialogue in Dolby Digital 5.1 (at 384 kbps), the second an English audio commentary track in Dolby Digital 2.0 surround (at 192 kbps).

Dialogue is clear at all times, although there are a few characters whose modes of speech make understanding a little tricky, but this is intentional. Audio sync is generally good, although there are a few occasions, such as at 21:02, where it slips slightly out.

The score music is credited to David Newman, and is very good. It works effectively to combine the off-centre tone of the movie with the mad-cap antics, effectively recalling themes throughout both on- and off-key to set the mood of a scene. In addition to the score, Edward Norton wrote all his own Smoochy songs, and while that is quite cute (and it's nice to see an actor actually putting in that amount of effort for a role), I think it's safe to say there are no genuine children's music writers quaking in their boots at this time.

Surround presence is non-existent. Simply forget you have the rear two or three speakers plugged in, because this soundtrack has. They utter only a very low volume reflection of the front soundstage throughout the movie low enough that you actually have to go right up to the speaker to hear it. While this movie does not call for a very dynamic soundstage, it would have been nice if there had been some effort put in otherwise, we should have just had a stereo soundtrack.

The subwoofer is scarcely used more than the surrounds, having a role limited to backing up the score on an infrequent basis.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

There is a good selection of extras presented here, and they are actually of a reasonable quality.

Menu

The menu is 16x9 enhanced, themed around the movie, and features Dolby Digital 2.0 audio.

Audio Commentary - Danny DeVito (Director), Anastas Michos (Director of Photography)

It seems the two participants in this commentary were recorded separately, as there is no interaction between them. Additionally, Michos does not introduce himself, and on the Region 4 cover, it is not stated who is on the commentary (it is stated on the Region 1, although his comments suggest his function any way) this may well confuse some people. The commentary is very technical in nature, delving well into the how and more importantly why a scene was lit in a particular manner. While it is informative, this very technical and dry nature will cause most to become bored with it quite quickly.

Behind-the-Scenes Documentary (7:40)

This is less documentary and more just behind the scenes footage. There is no narration it is simply a compilation of behind-the-scenes footage. As such it is a little lacking in flow, and a little difficult to piece together the scenes from which the footage was taken, but its short length means that it is still very much worth watching. Presented at 1.85:1, not 16x9 enhanced, and featuring Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo audio.

Additional Scenes (6:07)

This section contains 10 extended or deleted scenes, available separately or as a whole via the "play all" option. Each scene is prefaced by a page of text explaining why it was cut. This is a good way to present deleted scenes (as opposed to commentaries), although I still prefer the "filmmaker intro" method. Presented at 1.85:1, not 16x9 enhanced, and featuring Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo audio.

Bloopers and Outtakes (4:31)

This is simply a collection of footage of actors fluffing lines, doing different takes (including Robin Williams doing an horrendous Australian accent), and generally not doing what they were supposed to. Presented at 1.85:1, not 16x9 enhanced, featuring Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo audio.

Interactive Ice Show (9:04 x 4 angles)

This features the entire "ice-show" sequence (in the movie it was cut to about half this length) that was filmed with four cameras. It presents the "viewing angle" in a big TV screen, and a small preview version of all angles down below, allowing changing between angles using the first four number keys to select the angle. This is of little interest, except for those who wish to see the entire ice show. Presented at 1.33:1, not 16x9 enhanced, and featuring Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo audio.

Trailers (4:25)

This section presents the theatrical trailer (in 1.85:1, 16x9 enhanced video, with Dolby Digital 2.0 surround audio), and two additional trailers for Death To Smoochy (in 1.85:1, non-16x9 enhanced video, with Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo audio). All trailers are examples of how to make a good trailer.

Magic Cookie Bag

This section is the photo gallery section. It contains the following galleries: All are 16x9 enhanced. Smoochy's Summer Vacation features Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo audio, while the rest have no audio. For those wondering, the Summer Vacation was actually the director of photography taking the Smoochy doll with him and his family as they toured the world and taking photos of various attractions, all featuring the Smoochy doll.

Cast & Crew

This is simply a static page listing the cast and crew. What joy.

DVD-ROM content

This consists of a few web-links to the Smoochy site, and Warner Brothers in general, as well as the oh-so-wonderful Interactual player. Not even worth bothering with.

Easter Egg (1:02)

To access this egg, go to the second page of special features, highlight the "Main Menu" option, and press up. The chalk-outline will be highlighted. Select it to watch Robin Williams tell some rather dirty jokes. Presented in a 1.33:1 window (the actual aspect ratio is a composition of two side shots on Williams and Norton), with Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo audio.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

The Region 4 version of this disc misses out on: The Region 1 version of this disc misses out on: Language issues aside, if cast and crew filmographies were ever enough to sway the decision for a DVD one way or the other, they would have to be very impressive. These are not they are normal. Therefore the two discs are equal.

Summary

Death To Smoochy is a very good, and very biting, satire of the children's' TV world. It is funny and definitely worth checking out. Much better than its direct-to-video status would suggest.

The video quality is extremely good, presenting a clear and crisp picture that is a pleasure to watch.

The audio is disappointing, as while it delivers dialogue well enough, there is no use of surround channels at all, while the sub-woofer largely sits dormant. Rather than the 5.1 track this has been encoded as, it sounds more like a 3.0 track.

There is a nice selection of interesting extras presented for this disc, showing that at least some effort has been put into this film.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Nick Jardine (My bio, it's short - read it anyway)
Thursday, December 26, 2002
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-535, using Component output
DisplayLoewe Xelos 5381ZW. Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationOnkyo TX-DS787, THX Select
SpeakersAll matching Vifa Drivers: centre 2x6.5" + 1" tweeter (d'appolito); fronts and rears 6.5" + 1" tweeter; centre rear 5" + 1" tweeter; sub 10" (150WRMS)

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