Randolph Smiley (Robin Williams) is on top of his game--he's the eponymous star of the highest rated kid's TV show Rainbow Randolph has his own Times Square billboard and makes lots of money. Until that is he gets caught taking bribes from stage parents. Suddenly he becomes the social pariah of the millennium and of course gets canned. Losing Rainbow Randolph however leaves the network in a bind. Now they have to find a squeaky-clean replacement pronto. Enter Sheldon Mopes (Edward Norton) and his alter-ego Smoochy an abnormally large fuschia rhino who sings children's songs about kicking drug habits and stepdads who aren't mean but simply adjusting. With his naivete unwavering ethics and unflagging ambition to make the world a better place he becomes the new number one show. Sheldon soon learns however how cutthroat children's entertainment can be as the powers that be try to corrupt his ideals. Meanwhile a homeless Randolph makes it his number-one priority to destroy the bastard who stole his life. Who's going to get Smoochy first the corrupt businessmen or crazy Rainbow Randy? Stay tuned...
When you hear the Smoochy cast list--Williams Danny DeVito Jon Stewart Catherine Keener--you automatically think mondo laughs. Added to the list is Norton who may not be known for his comedic talents but certainly adds credibility to the movie especially given that he rarely picks bad scripts. Luckily no one disappoints. Norton plays the straight guy with aplomb and shines brilliantly when singing his sappy yet lesson-filled songs. Keener whom we haven't seen since her Oscar-nominated turn in Being John Malkovich is also a standout as the jaded development VP who falls for Sheldon's sweet manner. She has an uncanny way of delivering lines that bite to the bone. And then there's Williams--as always he has extraordinary moments of sheer hilarity in the film. This isn't one of those films where the comedian has to attempt to act or simply be reined in by the director (as some have done) to give a good performance. Director DeVito (who also plays the greedy agent) is wise enough to simply turn the camera on the comedian and let him go. Just wish we could have seen more of him.
Ever wonder what it would be like to kill Barney? We're betting DeVito thought about it quite often--and things never turn out good for that purple dinosaur. The premise of Smoochy is one of the funnier ones in recent memory and seems to follow the dark comedic path DeVito has chosen in his other directorial efforts including War of the Roses and Throw Momma From the Train. Unfortunately Smoochy doesn't quite hold up to its hype (or its trailers) because basically it focuses on the wrong character. It's got some great moments granted especially when Smoochy is on his show. But instead of being about Randy's obsession to do away with his replacement the film chooses to follow Mopes and deal with the dirty business of making a kid's show which appears to involve the Mob (whatever). Smoochy would have been a lot funnier if Randolph could have finally succeeded in his quest instead of getting all sappy.
Yes, yes, we know Halle Berry has shown her "guns" before. That's why millions of people went to see the pretty awful film Swordfish. However, we're talking real guns this time. She's in negotiations to join Ben Affleck (if he can stay off the booze) in Gigli, directed by Martin Brest for Revolution Studios. The premise of the film--I've talked about this one before, and it's still a doozy--centers on a lowly hit man (Affleck) who kidnaps the mentally challenged brother of a prominent district attorney. Berry will play a free-spirited gunslinger (please, is there any other kind?) sent in, ostensibly, to supervise the kidnapping but ends up partnering with the guy and going on the lam with him. Of course, through the process, he falls in love with her. Let's hope, through another strange and wild process, the title is somehow explained.
Down on the "Farm"
The newest hunk-o-rama in Hollywood, Colin Farrell, is set to star with Al Pacino in The Farm, a CIA thriller about an agent trainee (Farrell) who suspects his seasoned CIA instructor (Pacino) is a double agent. Production is to begin Nov. 1. OK, first, I'll talk about the movie, which sounds pretty average considering who is in it. But, sometimes, that's a good thing. What I really want to talk about is Irish-born Farrell. He made a big splash last year in the indie Tigerland and has been steadily rising in the ranks ever since. His most recent movie American Outlaws, where he plays outlaw Jesse James, opens in theaters this week, and he just finished wrapping Minority Report opposite Tom Cruise and directed by Steven Spielberg. For Farm, Farrell will receive a whooping $5 million, nearly double his usual asking price. And did I mention that he was damn cute? I did? OK, just checking.
Bound by "Rules
It's the gang from the WB, together once again. Well, at least parts of them. Jessica Biel (WB's 7th Heaven and the upcoming film Summer Catch) and James Van Der Beek (Dawson's Creek) will join Kip Pardue (Driven), Thomas Ian Nicholas (American Pie 2) and Shannyn Sossamon (A Knight's Tale) in the Lions Gate film The Rules of Attraction. The story, based on a novel by Bret Easton Ellis (Less Than Zero), is set at the height of Reagan's 1980s in a small, affluent, liberal arts college in New England. It follows three students as they sort out a romantic triangle and other such travails of--and this is Variety's description--the "self-consciously postmodern undergrad." Ah. This sounds suspiciously like another movie about three college students who have to sort out romantic problems. Anyone remember the 1994 Threesome with Lara Flynn Boyle, Stephen Baldwin and Josh Charles? Which was actually a pretty good movie. Well, Rules certainly sounds like it should be on the WB. And maybe not on the big screen. But, alas, I'm not the one running the show out there.
Jolie on "Border" patrol
If anyone is truly interested, the film Beyond Borders has had a long history of being on-again, off-again at Mandalay Pictures. Now it's on-again, with Angelina Jolie attached to star and Martin Campbell (Vertical Limit) to direct. It's a love story that takes place during the course of many years and set against the backdrop of humanitarian efforts worldwide. OK, so we don't know too much about the script so far, but I'm sure we will at some point. Here's the history lesson: In 1999, Kevin Costner and Catherine Zeta-Jones were attached to star, with Oliver Stone directing. But the actors had to drop out after awhile to do other stuff. Costner came back in the picture in the spring of 2000, with Meg Ryan as a possible costar. But Jolie wanted it and signed. Still, things were not moving very fast. Costner left for good in fall 2000 to be replaced by Ralph Fiennes. Then production halted at the beginning of the year, so Stone and Fiennes said so long. Jolie went on to do another project but said she was still interested if and when the film came to fruition. And here we are! Welcome to the wacky world of filmmaking.
Miramax has snagged the project My Baby's Mama after an intense bidding war last week. Bidding wars still happen? Remember that much talked about industry practice, where a script is sent to major studios on a Friday, with a lot of hype attached to it, and is frantically bid upon over the weekend by execs who just have to have it . Honestly, I thought that was a late '80s, '90s thing when the Joe Eszterhas' of the writing world ran things and demanded top dollar. Well, I guess I was wrong. Comedian Eddie Griffin's (Double Take) script, a cross between Three Men and a Baby and Soul Food, was bought by Miramax for Griffin to star along with John Leguizamo, LL Cool J and Lil' Kim. Apparently Miramax always had the upper hand in getting the project because of its alliances with several of the factions involved. But I wonder how much they paid for a script that seems less than spectacular.
Just call him "Sloppy Seconds" Frankenheimer
To be fair, the acclaimed director John Frankenheimer has made some action-packed and fascinating films in his career. Films such as the 1962 The Manchurian Candidate, 1966's Seconds and the 1977 Black Sunday. But lately he's been slipping, especially with last year's dismal Reindeer Games. And now he is set to direct the prequel to The Exorcist. What? We find out how the devil gets into little Reagan's attic? No, the story apparently revolves around what happened to Father Merrin during his missionary work in post-World War II Africa, where he first encounters the Big Red Horned One. One will remember Max Von Sydow's account in the original Exorcist, with brief flashbacks showing some poor African being possessed. Honestly, do we care? The most noteworthy part of this deal, however, is that Frankenheimer is once again following the footsteps of director William Friedkin. Most won't remember but Frankenheimer directed The French Connection II, a sequel to the original classic directed by Friedkin. Maybe those powers that be approached Friedkin about doing these sequels and he said, "Naw, I don't want to do it. But ask John. He'll go for it."