Thursday, April 7, 2016

Small Soldiers (1998) review


     Small Soldiers is a nostalgic trip back to the nineties, personifying the same general fascination with toys and future technology in that decade. The movie is a gem for its short-lived children's franchise and offbeat feel, which helps teach a bit of a lesson in the end. However, the movie is definitely not one of the greats and very dated compared to today's standards.

PLOT: In the nineties, the race for making the best toy was a real battle. So many different new and era-unique toys had been created thus far. This movie plays with that idea by introducing two new toys set to war against each other: the Commando Elites and the Gorgonites. The Commandos were seen as the patriotic heroes while the Gorgonites came off as weird aliens with strange attributes. The Commandos instantly became more popular. However, what the public doesn't know is that the Commandos have been programmed a bit too well with authentic military technology. A young boy named Alan (Gregory Smith) buys a whole set of Commandos and is surprised when they spring to life and dedicate themselves wholeheartedly to killing their programmed rivals, the Gorgonites. However, the Gorgonites have also sprung to life, but just for the sake of survival and not for war. The two toy races end up in an all-out war that Alan, his friends, and his family get caught in the crossfire of, as the Commandos are hell bent on achieving their goal. The plot is very unique for the most part, stealing only the idea of toys coming to life. The idea of putting them at war in a live-action environment is what made it seem fresh. The plot for the most part was executed as well as it could be, with the humor and events feeling a bit more offbeat and dark than they need to be. However, it puts this dated gem on the corner of being a cult classic. This movie even had a short-lived toy franchise around the time of the movie's release that faded out real quick. Ironic, isn't it?

ACTING: The performances in this movie aren't too spectacular or too bland either. The actors do their jobs as they should. Gregory Smith does a decent job as Alan, the young hero, and so does Kristen Dunst as his love interest, Christy. Other honorable performances come from David Cross as Irwin Wayfair, Phil Hartman as Phil, Tommy Lee Jones as Commando Chip Hazard, and Denis Leary as Gil Mars. No extremely stellar performances, but these guys all do their jobs as well as they possibly can.

SCORE/SOUNDTRACK: The score is pretty run-of-the-mill for the most part but the soundtrack has a lot of different selections from many different artists, including the likes of Queen, Billy Squire, and many others used throughout the movie in many different ways.

OTHER CONTENT: This movie was great entertainment in its time, especially for its target audience. As a child, I loved this movie and everything about it. Now, it takes me back to that time but doesn't seem to hold up to today's standards. It's a period piece in its own way, as it represents the nineties. It has the offbeat humor, childish innocence, and cheap effects. The Commandos and the Gorgonites look like real toys moving and interacting with the exception of certain scenes of action where the effects look very dated. The movie was really fun in its time, and is still fun if you remember it that way. However, it seems quite bland and stale to today's standards. It hasn't aged well, unless you tend to be an over-enthusiastic nineties nostalgia kid. In which case, this is a classic to reserve and remember. The lesson taught was impressive though. Through the Gorgonites, the movie teaches not to judge a person by their strange appearance but their heart, which was a nice lesson to learn at the target audience's age.

     Small Soldiers is a very overlooked gem of nineties entertainment, but is only good for that much. The movie is a trip back to the simplicity and quirkiness of that decade, but grows stale when compared with today's standards.The brief franchise and idea were nice parts of my childhood that I'm glad existed. However, their time is passed, but what a time it was and what a lesson was learned. Everyone just wants to be accepted and at home, man or Gorgonite.

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