I remember when Small Soldiers came out to the theaters in 1998, and I was too busy getting married to see it. I thought the premise of the film, where action figures come to life, was completely ridiculous, but I have seen films with even crazier plots.
I will have to say that mistakes were made with Small Soldiers. First of all, I think it was a bad idea to target this film for younger viewers. I suppose that Dreamworks wanted to sell toys from the film, and since the toys are the stars of the film, how can you not merchandise this?
I believe that Small Soldiers could have been a darker horror film, and perhaps it would have made a better point than it did. As it were, the issue of toys being too violent in nature for their majority audience was barely scratched on the surface of this film. In all honesty, I think it is odd that a lot of boys toys like G.I. Joe and Transformers make violence into play. This point was made well in a particular scene as it showed a toy executive discouraging education in a toy line and encouraging violence, or as the exec calls it: “action”.
The film is about two sets of action figures: the Gorgonites and the Commando Elite. The Gorgonites were intended by the toy company to be these peaceful aliens learning about the world, but the toy company, who has just been bought out by a military weapons contractor, deems these “monstrous” beings as villains.
That alone is interesting and believable, but the method of magic realism that brings these toys to life is less believable than Toy Story. Apparently, the military put these chips in these toys, and they suddenly become sentient.
The film could have been about a toy war between all citizens and these rampant toys, but instead it focuses on a kid who discovers a handful of these action figures and gets involved in their private little war. The plot then becomes almost exactly like Gremlins only there is no Christmas. Considering that it was directed by Joe Dante, who gave us both Gremlins movies. The kid, who I don’t even remember the name of, is the main character, but he is quite uninteresting. Pretty much every human character is uninteresting in this film, and the cast includes people who are now pretty big stars now like David Cross, Jay Mohr, Dennis Leary, and Kirsten Dunst. The said part is seeing Phil Hartmann in this cast.
Yes, the human actors in the film are as plastic as the action figures. The action figures in this film are not interesting, and since there are so many of them, they are reduced to cliches so they would be easier to remember. The worst was Tommy Lee Jones playing the leader of the villainous Commando Elite, who spouts militant cliches constantly. The worst part in the film is a scene where Tommy Lee Jones stands in front of a jigsaw puzzle of the American flag and does a Patton-like speech. Actually, the worst part might be the Spice Girls used to psych humans out. Oh, and there is a sad Titanic reference at the end. Yeah, this film is so late nineties.
In small, Short Soldiers is…wait, I think I reversed that. In short, this is not a good film, and it may have been doomed on premise alone.