People underestimate the power of toys. Without the knowledge of the outside world, the world of make believe becomes real to a child. Through the innocence, comes great imagination. Picking up a puzzle teaches them problem solving and that every solution has a reward. The reward for a jigsaw puzzle is the image that they have created. How about the classic rocking horse? A child that rides on that horse becomes their favorite cowboy. Remember your action figures? Playing with your superheroes gave you that opportunity to defeat those villains. These toys were more magical to them then something a genie could have granted them.
A few and a little imagination is all we needed right? Not according to Small Soldiers. To them, just owing the toy was not enough anymore. What if they could do all the things they did in commercials?
The fictional Commando Elite toys reminded me of G.I. Joe while the Gorgonites reminded me of the Thundercats. The movie certainly did a lot of work in creating these things. Stan Winston shows off how he could bring them to life through animatronics and computer animation. The effects looked great at the time, but they have not aged well. Toy Story 3 had more detail then the Commandos. But that’s a small problem compared to the bigger issue.
Small Soldiers wants to be a family movie, but younger viewers would find this alarming. Jumanji had the right mix of action and warm story to pull off the film it wanted. The people in this movie suffer bad injuries and the commandos are hunting them down like wild animals. This almost seems like a surreal movie of the story The Most Dangerous Game. If I was five and saw this movie, I would have never wanted to play with toys again.
Small Soldiers tries to bring a story about trust and neighborhood unity in a strange way. The focus is on the Abernathy family that owns an educational toy store. Their teenage son takes in a set of Commandos and Gorgonites in order to bring better sales. What he doesn’t know is that the makers were bought by a defense technology corporation with the insistence that real military defense chips were to be used on all their toys. Once the boxes are open, all hell breaks loose. The Commandos see the humans as “Gorgonite scum” and need to die with them.
The toys are cool. The Commandos are played by the stars of Dirty Dozen and the Gorgonites are played by the cast of This is Spinal Tap. The problem is how the movie was handled. Joe Dante should have either toned down the violence or (my choice) gone straight for the R rating and make it as violent and adult as possible. Something like this would have worked much better for the nostalgia-seeking crowd. But this film got lost within its own violence that churns plastic heads flying through lawnmowers over life lessons. What should have been funnier looks more shocking.
I’ll give this two and a half burnt action figures out of five. These toys would spark terror over childhood magic anytime. The imagination is limited by its wimpy family friendly ideals
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