Small Soldiers - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

Small Soldiers Reviews

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Super Reviewer
½ October 27, 2013
I saw this when it first came out in the cinema way way back in good old 1998, the air was cleaner back then. *Cough!* sorry!...anyway I didn't really like it as I recall, it was hyped up pretty strongly but didn't really live it up to it. Surprise surprise on a re-watch I have done a 180 and now do appreciate the film a whole lot more, I guess I didn't quite get the tone first time round.

Set in small town USA two sets of brand spanking new hi-tec toys are due for release but a small batch get an early chance of sales in a local toy shop. The shop is run by a humble man who has a slightly rebellious son, naturally this lad gets into some small fry high jinx (that builds) with these toys as they break loose and run amok. One set of toys are the good guys and one set are supposedly the bad guys, one group has been programmed to destroy the other and the local family is slap bang in the middle.

Basically this is a modern remake of 'Gremlins' and I never even twigged back in the day. The whole premise is pretty much the same albeit in a lighter tone of course, replace monsters with killer toys. Everything is very cliched and pretty stereotypical of small town America, the film is actually a very good little homage to those classic 80's teen flicks that involved monsters/aliens/the supernatural etc...Hell they even cast classic 80's stars Wendy Schaal and Dick Miller, who of course has starred in some perfect examples of typical 80's trashy horror comedies, including 'Gremlins' (that's not trashy by the way). Miller even plays a similar type of role to his 'Gremlins' character, direct homage to the genre right there if you ask me.

Had this been made back in the day it probably would have been pretty dark, but lets give credit where credits due, this film is also quite dark. Its not scary and its not bloody of course but there is a nice undercurrent of evil that lurks within these toy soldiers. You would think how can a toy injure me, but give these little guys a big knife or nail gun and all of a sudden you've got a problem. This is how the film works well in my opinion, they don't hold right back with the action, yeah sure most of it is kinda silly, almost cute, but there are some slightly nasty moments where they have successfully tweaked the hairs on the back of your neck.

The sadistic knife wielding 'Barbie-ish' girly dolls are a good example of this. The sequences with them involved aren't scary but its certainly heading down eerie street as they scamper around with damage to their faces and no hair. Almost a PG version of 'Chucky'...almost.

The toys themselves are a mixed for me. On the one hand the gruff, butch, muscle bound military special elite soldiers are really nicely. Love the cliched cartoonish caricatures of the typical buzz cut 80's macho action man, especially the cigar chomping ones. Not only do they look like a typical dirty dozen team with each member a master in his own field (explosives, communications etc...), but they got Borgnine, Walker, Brown and Kennedy to voice them! awesome much?!. The other two remaining soldiers are voiced by Tommy Lee Jones and Bruce Dern so really its nothing short of sheer brilliance. And again back in the day I didn't even realise.

Of course you have to remember that even though these little guys have been deliberately designed to homage their voice actors to a degree (and the action man genre). They are also suppose to be stereotypical action figures within the film, the type of toys that little boys would clearly love, look at their their names...'Brick Bazooka' 'Nick Nitro'. The characters work on two levels of the conventional stereotype.

On the other hand the Gorgonites are a very surreal bunch that didn't really fit the style of the film methinks. Their leader 'Archer' is pretty cool looking and sounds epic voiced by Langella but the rest are a crazy ass bunch of monsters that would feel more at home in a Tim Burton fairytale really. I'm not sure why they didn't keep all the Gorgonites the same type of creature as their leader Archer just with different colours or patterns on the fur (go down the Thundercat route). I did like the dark twisted appearance of one or two of them sure, almost a bit 'Evil Dead-ish' if you ask me but they just don't fit this flick.

I do recall that a lot of the hype for this film was down to the Stan Winston effects for the toys. To be fair these effects still remain solid today, gotta give kudos to the actual design and creation of all those action figures because they do look great, I'd have one. The CGI is also not too bad these days, its used for the more obvious requirements but blends in well. On the whole they managed to use both real props/models and CGI effectively together instead of just relying on all out computer effects.

This film shows me how you change as you get older, when I first saw it I couldn't care a less about it and didn't pick up on half the details. Now I can see clearly what they were trying to do and I think it works pretty well really. Its not anywhere near as good as some of the 80's classics but it can hold it head up high as a decent entry into the comedy horror genre. I say comedy horror with a pinch of salt as its not totally like that, more a watered down kiddie PG version but still good still good.
Super Reviewer
October 5, 2012
Major Chip Hazard: If it lacerates or detonates, I want it mobile and I want it lethal. 

"The few, the proud, and the small."

I hadn't watched Small Soldiers since I was 8 years old, but I found a great deal of enjoyment from this fun and satirical Joe Dante film. The movie obviously doesn't come flaw free. In fact if you wanted to keep count of just how many elements of this movie are flawed; it would be a tough job. The fact is though, that I just don't really care about the flaws. There's too much good stuff going on here, that it overshadows everything that is wrong with it.

So, a toy company comes up with a new idea that let's the toys interact. Then they market it around the American heroes killing the enemy aliens. There's a lot of satire going on here especially in that the soldiers are the bad guys. After a neighborhood kid gets his hands on the toys a little early, the battle between the Soldiers and the aliens begins. Dante isn't exactly subtle, but his style works perfectly here. The movie has the same kind of feel that The Burbs had, and both are good films from Dante. The movie is so chaotic and messy, but in the best possible way.

The cast brings out the best in the movie as well. We have Kirsten Dunst, Tommy Lee Jones in a voice role, Dennis Leary, Phil Hartman, David Cross, and a variety of other decent to good character actors. Also, I really enjoyed the jokes that were being thrown at us, either direct or subliminal. Dante had a good eye for what he could exploit with this type of plot and I believe he made good use of what he had.

You can call the movie stupid, you can call the movie ridiculous, and you can call the movie flat out awful; but I'm going to call it one hell of a fun time. It may not be a masterpiece, but it does exactly what it set out to do. It's entertaining, occasionally funny, and never boring. It's quick moving and appeals to more than just children. It's truly an underrated movie in my opinion.
Super Reviewer
½ July 29, 2012
A strange mix of Gremlins and Toy Story. Anyway, Joe Dante's satirical picture is captivating.
Super Reviewer
½ May 31, 2012
I remember when I was young and loved this movie. When I watch it now I realized how bad the acting was from the kids and how many racist slers Tommy Lee Jones's toy says. Also, this is an extreamly violent film for a kids film. But with that said, this films special effects were great and it takes good filmmaking to make you care for a bunch of toys. It's no Toy Story, dont get me wrong, but watch it if you havent in a few years.
Super Reviewer
½ January 5, 2012
Joe Dante takes the helm for this movie which is basically a combination of his own film Gremlins with Toy Story, and concerns a bunch of action figures named the Commando Elite (a bunch of stock soldier types) who battle it out in suburbia against their monstrous misfits enemies the Gorgonites and some human teens and their families. This is all made possible because of a toy company employee who uses military grade munitions chips as the processor for the toys.

It's mostly just a wild and creative action movie, but it's also a fun send up of and tribute to military movies (most of the Commando Elite are voiced by cast members from The Dirty Dozen) as well as a sly and lsight satire of media execs, and that sort of thing.

It might seem like a fun family friendly kid's film, but please note that this is NOT a movie for little kids, as it is actually rather subversive, sometimes dark, and a tad intense and creepy. I personally didn't find it to be too intense, but it's kinda like looking at Kindergarten Cop and putting thigns in context.

This is a typical story where a geeky kid finds his place in the world, as does his toy counterpart, but the film is quite witty, inventive, and has soem really wel ldone visual effects. Plus, there's a good amount of humor here. The script has it's moments, but the story is admittedly a little thin and mostly a showcase for the visuals and the action. Plus, the film is rather cheesy in it's 90s-ness, but it's still fun and entertaining.

All in all, a decent, and fun movie. It's tonally uneven, and not as strong as it could be with the satirical elements, but the cast (voice and live action) are good, and the film is fairly well made, so give it a shot.
Super Reviewer
September 6, 2010
No, it's not the first time that toys were brought to life, but that doesn't mean that this film is ripping off any other film. In this one, the toys believe that they have to be at war with one another, which causes the mayhem that ensues. It's really a great movie, a lot of fun for kids of all ages.
michael e.
Super Reviewer
December 20, 2010
a fantastic and creative plot with great action, acting, drama, and effects, the toy soldiers move fantastically and the ending fight is by far the best scene in the whole film
Super Reviewer
½ May 10, 2010
All kinds of awesome and one of the best demented children's movies around. Joe Dante always knows how to make a movie that can appeal to just about everyone. This takes a very unique premise and makes it even more exciting with chip-enhanced action figures. This is probably every kid's dream and worst nightmare, that toys how the power to think, feel and kill. In a lot of ways it's the Toy Story from hell, but to generalize it like that would be a slandering of its good name. Tommy Lee Jones as the unstoppable Chip Hazard and Frank Langella as the child-like mutant alien are only some of the great characters in this.
Super Reviewer
January 13, 2010
Toy Story for Grown Ups! It is a well made action version of toy story! Even though I could never come close to toy story, it delivers!
Super Reviewer
February 7, 2007
The names of the characters, particularly the Commando-Elite, are pretty good, and worthy of an award of their own.
Although some of the animation is a little wooden, that just seemed to add to the whole flavour of the film. It makes witty references to the alikes of Patton and The Terminator, and what a charming creature Archer of Gorgonites is.
A sequence involving malevolent Barbie dolls (voice by Sarah Michelle Gellar and Christina Ricci) is a stroke of demented genius.
Super Reviewer
½ January 4, 2008
Its okay I suppose.
Super Reviewer
October 28, 2007
Toys going to war. An interesting film for kids, but not for kids.The story behind this film is a little over the top, but is entertaining for the most part. The first half of this film is pretty slow and it left me feeling a little bored. I didn't really care for the first ten minutes either. How the heck is somebody going to order tons of top secret military chips in just a few clicks. I know that you shouldn't take this movie seriously, but that was just a bit too much. The second half of this film is where the movie gets going. For the most part, the commandos are on the attack and causing havoc wherever they go. The second half is definitely where everybody will enjoy the film the most.Remember when I mentioned that this is for kids, but not for kids? I meant it. A film about toys coming to life. Reminiscent of Toy Story right? Well, in Toy Story you didn't have toys attacking you with knives, chainsaws, and nail guns. This film, in my opinion, is just a little too violent for the younger audience. Parents, you have been warned.The acting is OK at best, considering a bunch of them are comedians. Kirsten Dunst is alright and Gregory Smith does a decent job as the lead. The voices done by Tommy Lee Jones and Frank Langella fit their respective characters well and are nicely done. Keep your ears open for some small voice work from Sarah Michelle Gellar and Christina Ricci.One shining point of this film is the CG and animatronics. If toy figures came to life and moved, they would move just like they did in the movie. The CG is also somewhat reminiscent of Toy Story.This film does have a unique story, but it may not be for everyone. Use your own judgment before giving this a try.
Super Reviewer
September 29, 2007
i enojyed it
Super Reviewer
July 13, 2007
A decent war-toy movie that was well done and enjoyable. American Soldier toys develop a flawed programming circuit and start a war against the Alien action figures known as "Gorgonites", which are cute little humanoid creatures. The figure animation is interesting, detailed and cute. The story and scenes are lots of fun. It's got the right stuff.
Super Reviewer
½ July 1, 2007
A great little movie I stumbled across. A bunch of good and bad toy soldiers are battling it out at a family residence. Quite funny and well made.
Super Reviewer
½ March 20, 2007
A kids film that's kind of like a cross between Rambo and Gremlins, I quite liked the way it made the (thinly veiled) US "peace-keeping force" a bunch of mindless bloodthirsty thugs (ooh...subversive!). But Gremlins is still better.
Super Reviewer
½ February 26, 2007
A fun movie for the kids.
Super Reviewer
½ January 22, 2007
Nothing special.
Super Reviewer
August 20, 2006
A campy little family action film that delves into the dangers of technology, the pointlessness of war and how it isn't material possessions that make somebody who they are. Good effects for the time and Tommy Lee Jones relishes everyline he has. Moments of brilliant comedy include using the Spice Girls as psychological warfare. Not for everyone and probably has an age limit, but I still love it.
Super Reviewer
March 5, 2013
Hilariously entertaining, Small Soldiers delivers an adventurous and action-packed film. When a new line of action figures with smart chips take their programming too seriously they turn a small town into a war zone. Featuring some impressive casting that includes Kirsten Dunst, Tommy Lee Jones, Frank Langella, and Phil Hartman, there's a ton of talent in both the regular and voice casts. The special effects are also pretty remarkable, particularly the CGI and animatronics. Yet the script is a bit weak, and has trouble managing all of the characters and subplot. And, the comedy becomes cartoonish near the end. But even with its flaws, Small Soldiers is a fun filled comedy with some clever satire on the toy industry.
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