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Movie Review

Small Soldiers

MPAA Rating: PG-13 for some menacing action/violence and brief drug references

Reviewed by: Israel Canlapan
CONTRIBUTOR

Very Offensive
Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
Middle School
Genre:
Action/Adventure
Length:
109 min.
Year of Release:
1998

Starring: Tommy Lee Jones, Gregory Smith, Kirsten Dunst, Dick Miller, Kevin Dunn, Jay Mohr, Phil Hartman / Director: Joe Dante / Released by: DreamWorks S.K.G and Universal Pictures

“Small Soldiers,” Big Ho-Hum

Will someone please tell Hollywood that high-technology does not a movie make, even if it includes voice-overs from famous action stars? Who am I kidding? Nowadays, if it sells a million soundtrack albums and moves a million more of movie merchandise, objection over-ruled.

“Small Soldiers” is a movie about the “Commando Elite,” a set of raucous toy soldiers embedded with advanced military microprocessors, going on their pre-programmed mission to search out and destroy another set of toys called the “Gorgonites”. The Gorgonites, freakish but well-mannered, are in turn pre-programmed to search for their fictitious lost land of Gorgon, and programmed to hide from and lose to the Commando Elite. The movie shows us how the toys are conceived, then delivered to a small-town toy-store in Ohio where the action begins. Nearly everything else in the movie is just scenes showcasing the impressive animatronic technology achieved by Stan Winston Studio and Industrial Light and Magic, seamlessly blending live action with computer-generated imagery.

If you’re looking for violence, look no further: toys blowing up other toys, toys hurting humans, humans hacking toys, ad destructum. There is plenty of mutilation going on here. No bloody gore, but who needs it when toy heads and limbs are flying everywhere?

Language is pretty mild for a film with a PG-13 rating, but be advised that there are about a dozen instances of crude language (hell, damn, a**) and one instance of profanity. Furthermore, some serious themes are given very loose treatment here. There are ideas about setting a moribund business on fire to collect insurance, conniving to retain merchandise in violation of proper business ethics, and paying people enough money to silence their indignance. If that weren’t enough, this movie is filled with many negatives of present society: a cut-throat business magnate who has little regard for moral values, a co-worker who undermines his partner’s trust in the name of business success, a trouble-making kid in a dysfunctional family, and a neighbor who rudely violates his neighbor’s property.

I know the movie producers think no one will see this movie for the real people. They want to see the toys. Besides, we are not to take this movie seriously. To the movie-going public, I say take your money elsewhere.

Viewer Comments
What happens when some American toy manufacturers go one step too far? After a recent link with a military hardware company a couple of not-so-hot toy makers get into hot water when they inadvertantly use adaptive military chips in a line of warlike all-action figures for kids: the Commando Elite (think one foot He-man characters and your on the right lines) and the peaceful enemy the Gorgonites. The plot was sparse and quite predictable, there’s a faint resemblance to the Gremlin movies (and is, I believe, by the same director) in that the main character is a young boy (early teens) with a crush on a slightly older (looking) girl everything revolving around the boys friendship with one of the (humanoid) toys Archer—Leader of the Gorgonites. The film was quite entertaining, though the violence was quite severe for a PG film. The animation, mixed with real footage, waas quite awesome making all the figures appear very lifelike—there must be some animatronics in there someplace too. Some unnecessary swearing was used but not excessively. Overall, quite a good no-brainer of a film. Themes of trust/honesty, personal accomplishment and domination of good over evil might be points of thought for younger viewers.
—Paul B H Jefferies, age 22
Rambo meets Toy Story. This is definitely not a children’s movie. One scene depicts a mass of sick barbie dolls leaping all over humans like insects. I also found the overall theme offensive from a christian point of view: rebellious kids, an emphasis on violence, a dark overtone. Too bad, for Small Soldiers could have equalled Toy Story otherwise. The graphics are great. The idea actual works well. The bad guys—the small soldiers themselves—square off against a gang of likeable and even intriguing Gorgonite aliens. If the small soldiers could have been made more humorous and lighthearted instead of being one track killing machines; if the crazed barbie doll scene could have been replaced… while watching Small Soldiers I kept seeing lots of potential but kept waiting for a redeeming quality which eventually came with a fine ending to the movie. Small Soldiers does not contain the graphic and sick suggestiveness as other movies passed off as family films like Gremlins or Men In Black. While most adults will probably shake their heads, I think most teens will probably enjoy this shoot em up Toy Story. I must confess, I though it was worth a watch, but not for children!!
—Todd Adams, age 31
This movie is the most harmless, funny controversial movie in a long time. The reason I say that is because much has been made (by critics) about the violence and the connection to children in this movie. I’m sorry, but most of the kids dealing with the Commando Elite were about 15 or 16. It resembled Gremlins a little too much, and almost pays homage to Tron (another movie where a program gets a mind of its own and if you remember what happens at the end, it happens here again in Small Soldiers). Jay Mohr was hilarious and if you stay after the credits, Small Soldiers is dedicated to Phil Hartman. The scenes with the Gorgonites were sweet, and the ones with Chip Hazard downright frightening. When Alan (the name of a character from Tron, FYI) turns on the radio, he hears talk radio, possibly a very soft, friendly jab at Rush Limbaugh. But twenty minutes earlier, the song that plays at the beginning of the program is heard on the kid’s radio. Overall, a summer movie that lives up to the hype (imagine that). I give it an 8.
—Zack, age 16