Death to Smoochy

Death to Smoochy

Odds are, Danny DeVito's black comedy Death To Smoochy didn't land on your radar when it was released 20 years ago this week, and if it did, its appearance was fleeting.

Written by Adam Resnick — a comedy writer famed for his work on counter-culture monoliths The Late Show With David Letterman and The Larry Sanders Show — this sly satire of children's television and the corrupt world lurking behind its colourful scenery, is regarded as one of the most notable box office bombs of the early noughties.

In it, Robin Williams gets a rare chance to flex his villainous chops as ‘Rainbow' Randolph, a disgraced kids presenter who's ousted and replaced by Edward Norton's goodie-two-shoes children's show purist Sheldon Mopes and his Barney-esque purple rhino alter-ego, Smoochy.

Throughout its 116 minutes, we watch as Randolph tries his best to reclaim his beloved hosting gig while Resnick employs bags of dark humour (Nazis, guns, penis-shaped cookies), to highlight the ruthless corporate greed that fuels this seemingly innocent-looking industry.

Boasting appearances from Williams, Norton, Catherine Keener and DeVito himself, the movie was eyed as a sure-fire-hit that'd help launch Film4's movie slate following a co-producing partnership with Warner Bros — but things didn't exactly go to plan.

In fact, even DeVito was forced to eventually throw up his hands and admit defeat regarding its reception from audiences, saying "It was a great experience… all the way up until Warner Bros released it."

However despite this prevailing narrative surrounding the movie's legacy, a quick "Death To Smoochy" Google search tells a different story. As DeVito's film celebrates its 20th birthday, it's clear that it wasn't as terrible as critics would have you believe — rather, it just needed a little time to find its crowd.

Undoubtedly heightened by Williams' untimely death and the dark parallels between that event and his unusually dark performance as ‘Rainbow' Randolph, perhaps Death To Smoochy finding its tribe later in life is a great lesson in not putting too much stock on opening weekend ‘hot takes' and box office receipts.

Maybe some films need more time to settle into their own groove and meet audiences on their own terms — and when you look at the maths surrounding this movie's reviews, it doesn't take an education-loving purple rhino to help you understand that the audience love for it clearly overshadows any two-decade old negative press.

— Simon Bland, yahoo! movies

Death to Smoochy

Fri March 17, 7:30 PM, Muenzinger Auditorium

Germany, United Kingdom, United States of America; 2002; in English; 109 min, 35mm

Director: Danny DeVito, Screenplay: Adam Resnick, Cast: Robin Williams, Edward Norton, Catherine Keener, Danny DeVito, Jon Stewart



10 films for $60 with punch card
$9 general admission. $7 w/UCB student ID, $7 for senior citizens
$1 discount to anyone with a bike helmet
Free on your birthday! CU Cinema Studies students get in free.


Pay lot 360 (now only $1/hour!), across from the buffalo statue and next to the Duane Physics tower, is closest to Muenzinger. Free parking can be found after 5pm at the meters along Colorado Ave east of Folsom stadium and along University Ave west of Macky.


Park elsewhere and catch the HOP to campus

International Film Series

(Originally called The University Film Commission)
Established 1941 by James Sandoe.

First Person Cinema

(Originally called The Experimental Cinema Group)
Established 1955 by Carla Selby, Gladney Oakley, Bruce Conner and Stan Brakhage.

C.U. Film Program

(AKA The Rocky Mountain Film Center)
First offered degrees in filmmaking and critical studies in 1989 under the guidance of Virgil Grillo.

Celebrating Stan

Created by Suranjan Ganguly in 2003.

C.U. Department of Cinema Studies & Moving Image Arts

Established 2017 by Chair Ernesto Acevedo-Muñoz.

Thank you, sponsors!
Boulder International Film Festival
Department of Cinema Studies & Moving Image Arts

Looking for a gift for a friend?
Buy a Frequent Patron Punch Card for $60 at any IFS show. With the punch card you can see ten films (a value of $90).

Cox & Kjølseth
: Filmmaker Alex Cox & Pablo Kjølseth discuss film topics from their own unique perspectives.

: Pablo and Ana share Zoom-based briefs on what's currently playing at IFS

Search IFS schedules

Index of visiting artists

Sat Oct 28, 2023


At Muenzinger Auditorium

Tue Oct 31, 2023

Shaun of the Dead

At Muenzinger Auditorium

more on 35mm...