Death to Smoochy appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this single-sided, dual-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. For the most part, the picture looked excellent, but a few small concerns knocked it below “A” level.
Sharpness seemed solid as a whole. A few wide shots displayed a little softness, but those issues caused no serious problems. Mostly the movie appeared crisp and detailed. Jagged edges and moiré effects created no concerns, but I did notice a little light edge enhancement at times. As for print flaws, the image looked clean. I saw no examples of grit, speckles, grain or other issues.
As one might expect from a film that featured a goofy kids show, Smoochy enjoyed a very vivid palette, and the DVD displayed those tones nicely. Colors appeared bright and vibrant throughout the movie, and they really popped off the screen at times. I saw no issues related to noise, bleeding, or other problems. Black levels came across as deep and dense, and shadow detail seemed fine for the most part, but a few low-light scenes were slightly murky. Ultimately, Death to Smoochy looked quite good.
While the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of Death to Smoochy featured no noticeable flaws, it suffered from a distinct lack of ambition. The soundfield remained heavily oriented toward the forward channels. Music showed solid stereo imaging, while the mix also offered general ambience that spread nicely across the front. Some audio panned across that domain - such as when Randolph lost a tooth and it rolled to the side - but not a lot of activity happened from the sides. The surrounds contributed general reinforcement most of the time. They displayed light support for the music and effects, but little more than that. During the scene when folks harass Sheldon, their voices emanated from all around the spectrum, but that offered one of the few segments in which the surrounds distinctly came to life.
Audio quality appeared positive. Speech came across as natural and warm, and I noticed no issues related to edginess or intelligibility. Effects played a small role in the flick, but they consistently sounded clean and accurate, with acceptable low-end response when appropriate. Music seemed clear and bright, with decent dynamic range as well. Nothing about the Death to Smoochy soundtrack stood out, but it appeared fine for this kind of film.
This DVD release of Death to Smoochy packs a mix of supplements. These start with an audio commentary from director/co-star Danny DeVito and director of photography Anastas Michos. Both men recorded separate running, screen-specific tracks, and the results were edited together for this piece. At its start, DeVito loosely acknowledged the film’s poor reception; he stated that after a few months, the mourning period ended. However, with that funny remark, we heard the first and last reference to the fact the movie tanked. After that, the commentary offered a fairly relentless string of happy thoughts.
To be fair, both DeVito and Michos provided a reasonable amount of information, although their notes tended to be fairly dry. They focused on the technical elements. This didn’t seem surprising in regard to Michos’ side of the piece, but I would have liked looser statements from DeVito. He tossed in some notes about other elements and even gleefully pointed out some continuity errors, but mostly he stayed with the nuts and bolts parts of making the film.
That would have been fine had he and Michos stayed away from so much praise for the flick. From start to finish, I was inundated with comments about how great everyone was and how terrific the results were. It’s nice that they like their product so much, but it seemed annoying to have them tell us this so frequently. The commentary may work for big fans of the movie, but it did little for me.
Since it only runs seven minutes and 38 seconds, the Behind the Scenes Documentary obviously doesn’t offer a lot of depth. Nonetheless, the short program seems fairly entertaining. While it tosses in some movie snippets and soundbites from folks recorded during the shoot, it mostly consists of footage taken from the set. We get a good look at the methods used to bring Smoochy’s world to life, and we also find some funny improv bits and other amusing moments. It doesn’t substitute for a real documentary, but it seems much more useful than most programs of this length.
Next we get 10 Additional Scenes. Each of these lasts between 17 seconds and 62 seconds for a total of six minutes, 25 seconds worth of footage. A quick text card between segments tells why they were cut from the final film. None of it seemed terribly interesting, but I felt happy that they tossed it onto the DVD.
While the Bloopers and Outtakes section includes some of the standard goof-up and giggle moments, the four and a half minute montage offers a lot more entertaining material than usual. With guys like Robin Williams and Jon Stewart on the set, some lively improves became inevitable, and “Bloopers” provides a lot of funny stuff. Heck, it’s more amusing than the movie itself!
For the Interactive Ice Show, we get a multiangle feature. This nine-minute piece lets you cycle through four different angles for the ice show part of the film. It doesn’t seem any funnier here, but it still provides a decent bonus. In addition, it offers a good interface; just press the keypad number for corresponding angle, so you don’t need to whirl through all four to get to the one you want.
Within the Magic Cookie Bag, we get a collection of stillframe materials. “Behind the Scenes Stills” includes 29 shots from the set, while “Production Design” provides nine images of conceptual art for the film’s sets. “Costume Design” gives us 20 stills of more art, plus a shot of Norton in partial costume. “Other Art Materials” shows 41 images of promotional pieces created for the movie’s world; we see things like publicity stills of Randolph and Smoochy. “Production Stills” offers 67 stills from the film, while “Smoochy’s Summer Vacation” is something more unusual. Shot on his own post-movie vacation by director of photography Michos, this shows a Smoochy action figure as he travels the world. The 47 frames go from Africa to Asia to Europe - looks like Michos took a hell of a trip!
After this we find three trailers. This sections includes the film’s theatrical clip as well as two “alternate” trailers, neither of which ever saw the light of day prior to this DVD. Cast and Crew includes filmographies for actors Robin Williams, Edward Norton, Catherine Keener, and Jon Stewart, screenwriter Adam Resnick, and director/co-star Danny DeVito.
Lastly, Smoochy tosses in a few DVD-ROM features. These consist totally of weblinks. You can connect to the film’s official website, a Warner Home Video spot that advertises their latest DVDs, Warner Bros. Online, and their standard “Special Events” page. They don’t update the latter very frequently; as I write this in mid-September 2002, they list some June titles as “coming soon”. The DVD-ROM area also lets you sign up for WB’s “Movie Mail”.
Blessed with an inspired concept and an excellent cast but cursed with flat execution, Death to Smoochy came across as a fairly witless piece of work. The film fell far short of expectations and seemed like a largely leaden, lifeless film. The DVD offered generally positive picture and sound plus a reasonably decent roster of extras. If you know you like Smoochy, then the DVD will merit your attention, but otherwise, I’d recommend you skip this clunker.