Movie Magazine International

Small Soldiers

USA - 1998

Movie Review By Heather Clisby

Directed by Joe Dante, "Small Soldiers" concerns toys that come to life but if you're expecting another "Toy Story", forget it, not enough innocence here. Much like Dante's earlier film, "Gremlins," "Small Soldiers" explores the good and evil sides of one creature, or in this case, mechanism.

Meet the action figures, Commando Elite, a group of hard-core, over-muscled militia men led by Chip Hazard (voice by Tommy Lee Jones.) Their mantra is "There will be no mercy" and this is no string-pull lip service; they will set fire to your house, shoot nails at you and stabe you with corn cob knobs . . . with glee.

Meet the Gorgonites, a group of peace-loving freaks in search of their lost world, Gorgon, and led by Archer (voice by Frank Langella.) The Commando Elite were designed to destroy the Gorgonites and their allies at any cost; the Gorgonites were programmed to hide and to lose.

Alan Abernathy, played by Gregory Smith with natural ease, gets some free samples of the new toys prior to their open market release. Naturally, he gets caught up in the war, all the while trying to keep his father's toy store from being destroyed and winning the heart of a comely and capable neighbor, Christy, played by Kirsten Dunst.

The oddest thing about the plot is that when the toys do start having conversations with people and running around by themselves, no one is really shocked, excepting the usual parental suspicion. Alan's mother, Irene (played by Ann Magnuson,) asks him with hip concernedness, "Alan, are you on crank?"

The toys themselves are made to look like toys, not cartoons. They are little robots with computer-animated faces, all compliments of renowned creature creator, Stan Winston. The voice casting was sheer genius: the remaining Commando Elites are most of the cast from "The Dirty Dozen" - Ernest Borgnine, Jim Brown, George Kennedy, Clint Walker - plus Bruce Dern. The remaining Gorgonites are played by the founding memebers of "Spinal Tap" - Christopher Guest, Michael McKean and Harry Shearer. Brilliant.

In fact, much of the film pays homage to other films, such as Hazard's speech in front of a jigsaw puzzle flag a la "Patton." Also, with music by The Pretenders, Pat Benatar, Billy Squier, Queen and Rush, it's all about recycling. With an outlandish plot, great cast (this is Phil Hartman's final film) and superb special effects, "Small Soldiers" is a fun movie and handy trivia game all in one.

© 1998 - Heather Clisby - Air Date: 7/8/98

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