Reviewed by Jason Coffman
Rating: 5.5 Beans
his movie destroys itself near the end when Denis Leary surveys the damage his intelligent toys have wrought and says "Too bad... this would have made a great commercial." Why is this so bad? Because "Small Soldiers" IS a great commercial. A very long commercial for the toy line based on it. And, like most commercials disguised as full-length entertainment, it isn't very good.
Denis Leary plays the head of a giant corporation which acquires a toy company called Heartland Toys. David Cross and Jay Mohr play two toy designers who work for Heartland. Leary comes up with the idea of "toys that do what they do in the commercials," which means they talk, punch out of their boxes, etc. etc. Given only three months to devise the toys and prepare them to ship, Mohr orders some microprocessors created for the defense department and puts them in the toys.
Soon, the toys are being shipped to stores. Alan Abernathy (Gregory Smith) decides to sneak a set in so his father's quaint toy shop can make some money (his father has a strict rule about not carrying war toys). We learn that Alan has had troubles in the past, and that his family had to move because he was kicked out of two schools. Then we meet Christy (Kirsten Dunst), who will become Alan's girlfriend. In fact, she's wearing a shirt that says "Alan's Girlfriend" when she first appears in the film.
I made that up.
At any rate, the problems start up when the toys activate each other and run amok in the toy store. As it turns out, the Commando Elite toys are intelligent enough to escape their packaging and pursue their directive: Destroy the Gorgonites. The Gorgonites are peaceful creatures originally designed by Cross's character, but now are the "mortal enemies" of the Commando Elite. The rest of the film involves their struggle, with the human characters caught in the crossfire.
"Small Soldiers" was directed by Joe Dante, who also directed "Gremlins," which is somewhat similar. Only "Gremlins" was much better; the dialogue in "Small Soldiers" is often enough to make adults in the audience cringe. The cast is largely wasted: Cheri Oteri appears briefly, and Phil Hartman (in his last role) doesn't have nearly enough time on-screen. The special effects are simply amazing; when the film was over, I was in awe of the thought that one day a film will be made that is actually really good and have special effects this seamless. As it is, I guess we'll have to wait a bit longer.
Other reviews for this movie:
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