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 The World of Film in Australia - on the Internet Updated Thursday, July 31, 2014 - Edition No 908 

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SMALL SOLDIERS

SYNOPSIS:
When toy maker Heartland Play Systems is acquired by a military based conglomerate, toy designers Larry Benson (Jay Mohr) and Irwin Wayfair (David Cross) worry about job security. CEO Gil Mars (Denis Leary) isn't crazy about their latest designs and asks the designers to make the toys move and talk. With a hurried delivery schedule, Larry uses a batch of top-secret military microchips to power the toys and ships them off to toy stores without testing them. In the small suburban town of Winslow Corners, Ohio, teenager Alan Abernathy (Gregory Smith) helps his dad run the small corner toy store. When the new shipment is delivered, Alan convinces the delivery man to lend him toys headed for a larger chain store; the toys subsequently come to life. Archer (voice of Frank Langella), hides in Alan's bag and returns home with him where Alan discovers that there's much more to him than any other toy.

"What a terrific idea this is, but the idea is superior to the final film. Several years ago, director Joe Dante teamed up with Spielberg's Amblin Entertainment and created Gremlins. Cute fluffy animals with a dark side. Again, a clever idea with problems. This is the same team, similar film and the problems are still prevalent. The film is very clever indeed, almost too clever. Despite Dante's claims to the contrary, the film's computer-generated effects overshadow its narrative structure and sense of character, and the audience is looking at a film with utter detachment. Though the film is more politically correct than one might get from this film (the soldiers are the baddies for a change and the grotesque monsters are really nice and vulnerable), one never gets to know any of these characters, and what is left is clever pyrotechnics. Sure, the film delves into some interesting themes, notably the dangers of technology, but they are on the surface, and while these themes are being explored, Dante creates images of incessant violence, and so its moral stance is questionable. Performances from the human cast are reasonable, but lack a genuine honesty, though Frank Langella, as the leader of the Gorgonites, adds some rare dignity to the proceedings. Small Soldiers is a film brimming with potential but it goes about things in a way that makes it an uncomfortably dangerous film in a violent society coping with 21st century politics and technology."
Paul Fischer

"There’s nothing original about toys coming to life (it’s been happening since woodcarver Gepetto’s day let alone Toy Story) but Small Soldiers blends enough influences to lay claim to its own rather twisted character. Gremlins meets Toy Story-on-acid meets the rarity of celluloid villains in US army fatigues meets Stephen King’s Battleground meets a parody of war movies - - results in an utterly ludicrous, totally forgettable, and thoroughly entertaining piece of nonsense. Jokes fly faster than ammo from an Uzi - - Gizmo as a password (revisit Gremlins), an avaricious conglomerate mogul named Gil Mars (god of war...get it), spoofs of classic horror flicks (particularly Frankenstein) and takes on war movies from Patton to Apocalypse Now ... "I love the smell of polyurethane in the morning." In fact multi-facet homages (often combining soundtrack, visuals and dialogue) come at such a rate that the writers must have been in serious danger of developing neck-based RSI from all the nodding. The voice-over casting is delightful, with the wonderful buffoons from Spinal Tap pitted against the original Dirty Dozen mob plus Tommy Lee Jones. Director Dante seems to have a penchant for scenarios that could easily traumatise toddlers - - ie. they’re confrontational enough to capture the older kids’ attention. This one delivers plenty of laughs for the adults as well."
Brad Green



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CRITICAL COUNT
Favourable: 1
Unfavourable: 0
Mixed: 1

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SMALL SOLDIERS (PG)
(US)

CAST: David Cross, Jay Mohr, Alexandra Wilson, Denis Leary, Gregory Smith, Gregory Itzin, Dick Miller, Kirstin Dunst, Jacob Smith, Jonathan David Bouck, Devin Dunn

DIRECTOR: Joe Dante

PRODUCER: Michael Finnell, Colin Wilson

SCRIPT: Gavin Scott, Adam Rifkin, Ted Elliott, Terry Rossio

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Jamie Anderson

EDITOR: Marshall Harvey

MUSIC: Jerry Goodsmith

PRODUCTION DESIGN: William Sandell

RUNNING TIME: 108 minutes

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: UIP

AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: September 17, 1998

VIDEO RELEASE: September 1, 1999

VIDEO DISTRIBUTOR: Universal







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