It's war out there as toys fight toys along with any hapless
humans who get in their way.
The rag-tag and gawky Gorgonites, programmed to hide and to lose,
are led by a sad but heroic figure named Archer, voiced movingly by
Frank Langella. In contrast, the invincible Commando Elite, a DIRTY
DOZEN version of G. I. Joe-type action figures, have a commander, Chip
Hazard, who would make General Patton proud. ("We are the Commando
Elite. Everything else is just a toy!") A fast-talking Tommy Lee
Jones, the voice of Chip, delivers hilarious speeches that are
slice-and-dice amalgamations of famous patriotic and military
The Commando Elite are after the "Gorgonite Scum," and they show
no mercy to them or their human helpers. In a movie filled with
references to older films, the voices of many of the commandos are done
by Ernest Borgnine, Jim Brown, and others from THE DIRTY DOZEN.
Joe Dante, the imaginative director of GREMLINS and INNERSPACE,
turns his creative talents to the world of action figures in SMALL
SOLDIERS. The resulting dark comedy, while likely to scare the
daylights out of the more impressionable younger viewers, will delight
most audiences as it pushes the limits of what is expected and
acceptable from a live-action movie featuring toys that come to life.
The soldiers, designed by JURASSIC PARK's Stan Winston, look like live
toys rather than animatronic or computer-generated figures that mimic
It all starts when a take-no-prisoners CEO (Denis Leary) of a
sophisticated electronics conglomerate buys a toy company. He wants
toys that are as real as those shown in television commercials - ones
tough enough to break out of their own boxes with their bare hands.
Toy designer Larry Benson (Jay Mohr) accepts this challenge and, with
the help of some company military surplus, soon has the toys speeding
to stores everywhere. His nerdy sidekick Irwin Wayfair, played by
David Cross, is aghast when he realizes what Larry has done. "You put
munitions chips into toys!" Irwin exclaims.
When the first batch of Gorgonites and Commando Elite go to the
little "Inner Child" toy store owned by the Abernathy family, all hell
breaks loose. The Commando Elite start their own war in a big
cat-and-mouse game to find the fleeing Gorgonites. Using
ever-increasing firepower built from everyday household items and
tools, they manage to wreak havoc on everything around them. From
metal-pronged corncob holders to nail guns to aerosol flame-throwers,
their arsenal is impressive and imaginative.
The Abernathy's teenage son Alan, played by Gregory Smith from
HARRIET THE SPY, takes Archer home while the other Gorgonites hide.
Alan, an ex-trouble maker, is more interested in girls than toys. He
has fallen hard for his fellow classmate and next-door neighbor,
Christy Fimple (Kirsten Dunst), but she only dates older guys. (Her
father is played by comedian Phil Hartman in his last film before his
The Commando Elite establish an assault base in Christy's bedroom
and conscript her dolls into service, giving Alan lots of time to be
with his would-be girlfriend as they fight together. In the darkest
scene in the story, nude Barbie-like dolls mix trite teen talk with
fighting slogans - "If you can't accessorize, pulverize!" - as they
attack in droves in a scene reminiscent of THE BIRDS. Sarah Michelle
Gellar and Christina Ricci are devilishly good as the lead voices for
the vicious dolls.
SMALL SOLDIERS borrows scenes and soundtracks from other movies.
>From APOCALYPSE NOW, a commando pilots an attacking helicopter as "The
Ride of Valkyries" blasts away.
One of the funniest sequences is an homage to real life.
Patterned after the siege in Panama of General Noriega, the commandos
commandeer the Fimple's huge stereo speakers to blast their opponents
with music certain to drive them mad - The Spice Girls. (For the
record, like Mrs. Fimple, I too confess that I like their music.)
SMALL SOLDIERS runs 1:55. It is rated PG-13 for violence and
profanity and would be fine for kids nine and up.
My son Jeffrey, age 9, thought the movie was great and gave it
****. He liked everything in it from the songs to the toys - both
Copyright © 1998 Steve Rhodes