Small Soldiers
Rating -

Action (US); 1998; Rated PG-13; 108 Minutes

Kirsten Dunst: Christy Fimple
David Cross: Irwin Wayfair
Gregory Smith: Alan Abernathy
Jay Mohr: Larry Benson
Phil Hartman: Phil Fimple
Kevin Dunn: Stuart Abernathy
Denis Leary: Gil Mars
Ann Magnuson: Irene Abernathy
Wendy Schaal: Marion Fimple

Produced by Paul Deason, Michael Finnel, Walter F. Parkes and Colin Wilson; Directed by Joe Dante; Screenwritten by Ted Elliot, Zak Penn, Adam Rifkin, Terry Rossio and Gavin Scott

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Written by DAVID KEYES

Allow me to make the following observation perfectly clear:

Children are not made of cold hard steel. They are not made of intense, wild things, nor are they made of things that could make cement crumble. They are not made of pure strength. They are not made of disturbing, grim things, and they are not made of things that go bump in the night.

Children are intelligent people, but they can't handle everything. They definitely won't be able to handle "Small Soldiers," even though the people who made it seem to think that children can handle any type of violence in the movies.

Those who can are the ones who would probably find "Small Soldiers" a seriously dumb movie. Here we have something where you are not sure who will enjoy it. There are indeed notions within the script that suggests it could be a 'kiddie' movie, but after seeing it opening day, I doubt that any child under the age of 10 will find it enjoyable. They'll find it down right disturbing, considering that it is so violent it makes "Jumanji" look like "Peter Pan." But "Jumanji," while indescribable to a generally young audience, was at lease enjoyable for much older ones. The teenagers and adults who saw "Small Soldiers" on the day I did apparently walked away from it finding every second of it forgettable.

But that's not to say the movie wasn't worth a try. The story and premise setups are indeed unique ones. It's about a toy company taken over by a war hero*, who has come to the decision that today's toys do not live up to their standards. He envisions his creators making toys that can live up to all the hype. He orders them to make war toys, with long-lasting batteries, minds of their own, etc. What they actually produce, however, is not realized until the toys are manufactured. These toy war soldiers are indeed alive, with minds of their own, and urges to battle. A family who has bought a load of these toys discovers their life essence, and uses the backdrop of the film to create a concluding subplot which will overthrow the viscous toys which they company has created. This is no easy task, as the toys are not prepared to go without a fight.

What's even more realistic ias how the toys actually look. Stan Winston, the man behind the "Jurrassic Park" Dinosaurs, has once again created visual creatures that will be remembered in our imaginations as time passes. They are indeed the best part of the movie, not simply because they are much more detailed than toys of "Toy Story," but because it is almost as if they really exist in our worlds. They are sketched out in the script to be intelligent living beings, sometimes more intelligent than humans, and this is a difficult task to accomplish, not just for a special effects department, but for a screenwriter as well.

But perhaps that's the core of the problem. Both sides of the vindictive and viscous soldiers are in constant battle with each other, and these battle scenes are indeed not for young eyes. In one such gruesome example, several war soldiers are torn to pieces when a lawn mower rides over them. I, myself, was turned off by these scenes, not only because they were considerably graphic, but because they lasted longer than they should of. It seemed like five to ten minutes in which this occurrence existed, and was soon followed by more similar violent approaches.

This movie does not work, for any type of audience. Children will be scared, teens will be bored, and, I presume, adults will be turned off by what its children are faced with. So, who here will like it? I have no clue. I guess the answer to that question is 'no one.' Sorry, Joe Dante. Try try again.

*I am guessing a war hero. If the script sets this character up with a different background, I regrettably missed it.

1998, David Keyes, Please e-mail the author here if the above review contains any spelling or grammar mistakes.
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