Sheldon moves like a Christ wannabe in a comedic dark and corrupt world. Adults are not trustworthy. He and his TV producer fall in love over their shared childhood adoration for Rickets the Hippo, "The one face I could trust!" she confesses. The increasingly desperate, seemingly futile and heartbreaking efforts of a guy who is just a kids' TV-show host to protect children from everything from tropical oils to child abuse culminates in the anthem to end all children's anthems. "My Stepdad's Not Mean, He's Adjusting." See it for every happy song you have ever heard "Sesame Street" sing your toddler about the wonders of family diversity: "Not quite a dad or a brother -- Yes he gets cross, but he's the boss!"
"Stepdads are like puppies," he reassures the kids. They just need time adjust. "BUT REMEMBER: If he is EVER abusive to you or Mom, what is the magic number?" Kids shout out: "9-1-1."
Those of us who remember Robin Williams' happy divorce talk at the end of "Mrs. Doubtfire" will be tempted to exclaim: You've come a long way, baby.
"Death to Smoochy" is only a humorous Hollywood film, with cartoon villains and slapshot comedy. But what makes it funny is the dead-on shot it takes at a society where too many adults see protecting the kids as someone else's job. And the too many of us also tempted to believe that grit, corruption and despair are somehow more authentic, more interesting, more real than faith, hope and charity.
Maggie Gallagher is a nationally syndicated columnist, a leading voice in the new marriage movement and co-author of The Case for Marriage: Why Married People Are Happier, Healthier, and Better Off Financially.