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The Cinematic Katzenjammer: Aug 12: Small Soldiers


Aug 12: Small Soldiers

"When missile technology is used to enhance toy action figures, the toys soon begin to take their battle programming too seriously."
Directed by: Joe Dante, Rated: PG-13, 108 minutes

When I was young, I always asked my mom if we could rent Small Soldiers at Blockbuster or whatever rental store we were at. Every single time we went inside the store, I'd try over and over to convince her to let me watch it and she continually said no because of it's PG-13 rating. Once I was able to watch movies like it, I never actually ended up watching the film. However, I remember catching most of it on TV as I grew older and today I decided to actually sit down and watch it in one sitting and boy is it a unique movie. Small Soldiers is a combination of Gremlins (another film directed by Joe Dante), Toy Story, and to some extent, Jumanji. It's both violent and twisted in its own odd little way and proves to be rather entertaining for the most part. 

It' a lot like what may have happened had Buzz come to invade and destroy everything in Andy's room and Woody leading the resistance. 

Small Soldiers tells the story of a bunch of militant toys coming to life after being integrated with microchips from the Defense Department. The Commando Elite, led by Chip Hazard (voiced by Tommy Lee Jones) declare war on the Gorgonites and their honorable leader, Archer (voiced by Frank Langella). A kid named Alan brings Archer home with him and the Commando Elite track him down, vowing to destroy the Gorgonites at whatever the cost. The Commando's stockpile tools to create all sorts of weapons, from chainsaw vehicles to flamethrowers, and wreck havoc in Alan's neighborhood, searching for the Gorgonites. Very little is held back in the destruction of the suburb and full scale modern warfare ensues. Of course at the heart of the story, Alan is a young boy looking for a purpose (and for love), and while he grows up along the way he seeks the affection of Christy (Kirsten Dunst). Throw in a totally 90s soundtrack and special effects that are both terrific and awful and Small Soldiers turns out to be pretty fun. 

Small Soldiers features Dunst, pre-snaggletooth

As the Small Soldiers are well, small, the weapons they use for the most part are tiny little knives and blades. Even then though, the majority of the human cast get stabbed dozens of times by these little warriors and have very little reaction to the fact small blades penetrate their flesh. It's a very small part to the movie but I could never get past it. The special effects are pretty damn good for being what they are, and the film blends a great combination of animontrics with CGI. The character designs are great as well, and each of the toys featured in the film would be incredibly fun to have in real life. With that aspect, however, it's even weirder that a film with so much merchandising potential would be PG-13 and not as aimed for kids as most films of this style. Small Soldiers also features a crap ton of actors, including Dennis Leary, David Cross, Jay Mohr, and Phil Hartman and the voice talents of the original Dirty Dozen, George Kennedy, Clint Walker, Jim Brown, and even Ernest Borgnine. 

Rest in peace, you big lug. 

I'd recommend Small Soldiers for a lazy Sunday (like today!) and as a simple film to watch when there's nothing else to do. It's not a bad film by all means as much as it's just not great. It's no classic like Gremlins and while it follows a somewhat similar formula, the charm isn't as quite present as with Gizmo and gang. Small Soldiers is smart for what it is and actually has a handful of moments you'll laugh at that you wouldn't expect to find in a movie like it, and proves to be much more interesting than you'd initally think. Watch it, skip it, forget it, love it. It doesn't matter for the Commando Elite and the Gorgonites will continue fighting even if nobody's paying attention.

The Good:
great blend of practical and digital effects that bring a colorful cast of toys to life in an over-the-top violent fashion
The Bad:
very weak script that just brings the action from point A to point B with way too many cliches
The Ugly:
late 90s everything, from over-sized suits to the Spice Girls, and reminder of how awkwardly cheesy a lot of things were right before the new millennium

Overall: 6.2/10


As I side note, I threw up a quick survey on the right hand side of the blog. I'd appreciate it if any and/or all of you could take it real quick. Just wanting to get some feedback on the blog.

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At August 12, 2012 at 4:34 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ahhh! That's a scream by the way. A scream because this movie has always creeped me out. I've only seen a few minutes of it on tv, and that's probably all I'll ever see.

At August 12, 2012 at 5:03 PM , Blogger Nick said...

It's a weird one, that's for sure. And yes, I can see how parts of it are creepy. But it's not AWFUL, so that's good.

At August 13, 2012 at 11:16 AM , Blogger MT said...

Ya, I remember kind of liking this when I was younger. May have to give it a revisit...

At August 13, 2012 at 11:43 AM , Blogger Nick said...

Don't go out of your way to find it lol. Just catch it on TV.

At August 17, 2012 at 8:26 AM , Blogger Jess said...

Oh the memories of this movie. I went on a ‘date’ with my ‘boyfriend’, Shawn, in elementary school to see this with his mom. He’s gay now. I haven’t seen it since to see how it holds up (because of the heartbreak obviously). It does star Gregory Smith who I used to watch in Everwood and thought he might be doing more by now.

At August 17, 2012 at 9:19 AM , Blogger Nick said...

He was in Hobo with a Shotgun... lol

At August 25, 2012 at 10:21 PM , Blogger Jess said...

Yeah I saw him in that... but that's still not really evidence of a successful career. He stars in the tv show Rookie Blue which is in its 4th season which is good for him although I've never heard a person say they watch it. (This comment is very late, I know)

At August 25, 2012 at 10:52 PM , Blogger Nick said...

All good lol. He's just a little too odd looking in my opinion to be "a star" lol. Sure he looks better than I thought he'd turn out, but I don't know. Everwood was big and then it wasn't.. and you're right. I know no one that watches Rookie Blue.


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