Small Soldiers Reviews
A line of army toys known as the Commando Elite are placed with military chips that make them walk and talk intelligently - this new toy line causes living hell for Alan and his family and friends, who must protect themselves from the clutches of the Commandos, who wage war on them for hiding their sworn enemy, the misunderstood Gorgonites.
Small Soldiers seems alright in its first half hour. With a seemingly promising story, although blatantly created to rival that of Toy Story's fame, it seems entertaining enough. When the Commando characters are introduced, we are treated to a horde of lifeless, army cronies led by an even duller Tommy Lee Jones portraying the trigger happy captain Chip Hazard. The story is ruined by this addition of waging war, with repeated slapstick antics made by the Commandos becoming tiring and idiotic. The overall story proves that it doesn't have much to work with because we see the same kind of storytelling over and over - the Commandos destroy some stuff, attack the humans, and are packed with weapons. The element of the original bad guys, the Gorgonites, being the real good guys creates a misfit gang of supposedly humorous and misunderstood rejects like a wisecracking comedian and a giant eye - Small Soldiers is pretty ridiculous. The story is way too mean spirited to be likable because it's practically if the green army men from Toy Story decided to kill Woody and Buzz instead of being humorous parodies of army cliches. The Commandos are dull and lifeless, but our Gorgonite protagonists are admitedly annoying. The acting is mediocre at best - Phil Hartman always delivers in his roles, but Dunst and the other slew of forgettable actors are noticably bland. Small Soldiers doesn't deliver well and leaves viewers dissatisifed with what could have been a genius idea turned into a bland, mean spirited take on Toy Story with machine guns.
So the premise is basically this: take Toy Story, mix it into a live action film, separate the toys into 2 rival gangs who fight each other, and finally, make the toys dumber and more aggressive than they were in Toy Story. Oh, and make it PG-13, because if there's any way to improve a movie with a premise which should be kid-marketed, it's by making that movie PG-13.
While the CGI is poor and the "action" of the film doesn't necessarily entertain me, Small Soldiers has some good thematic material, although it is somewhat typical of an action film of this nature. A good amount of the thematic material has to deal with not surrendering, fighting/violence is not the answer, and so forth. A good one that goes beyond the typical themes in action films is that a line is revisited: "Just because you can't see something doesn't mean it isn't there" or something along the lines of that.
The way they set up the premise for this film was pretty strange; two toy engineers came up with two different sets of toys - one alien, one a group of soldiers - and their boss had the great idea of making the two sets rivals. Then, the guy who created the soldiers ordered microprocessors for both sets of toys, which happened to be used by the military, which meant the toys became very dangerous once activated. They became a type of artificial intelligence, though one side character described it as being more like "actual intelligence." To avoid the entire nation being terrorized by the aggressive "commandos," the film conveniently made it so that one kid who worked at his dad's toy shop would be able to "test" these toys before their actual release. This kid is, of course, the main character of the film, and of course he got his own romantic subplot with a young Kirsten Dunst.
This film was a little bit of an upset in my opinion - they could have waited a few years until CGI was a bit better, they could have made this more kid-friendly which probably would have made it much more profitable, and the plot was somewhat sloppily put together. This film has a good aesthetic and passes for a good B movie, but it is not a film I would revisit often.