Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Small Soldiers


  Small Soldiers plays out less like a Dreamworks family film and more like a sci-fi war movie. Only, the combatants are about 10 inches tall and made of plastic. Don't let that fool you, the movie has these nasty little blue light specials not-so-accidentally outfitted with military grade microprocessor chips that can learn and adapt within the core programming...
well what happens when you program a bunch of toys to go to war with each other? God help whoever gets caught in the middle.


  Which is exactly what happens. The frustrated teenage son of a conservative toy store owner first stumbles across a few of the 'Commando Elite' (the bad ones) and the 'Gorgonites' (the peaceful aliens) action figures before they officially hit the stores. Within no time at all, the ruthless toy soldiers, once voice activated, rip out of their own packaging to literally go and dismember their rival toy line. Not only are they self aware, but they realize that their weapons are made of cheapie plastic. "Standard issue is insufficient!" their leader yells, voiced with much gusto by the pitch perfect Tommy Lee Jones.

  At this point, the gravity of the situation starts to don on the viewers once the trigger happy toys start acquiring actual knives and dangerous household objects. Its as cool as it is unnerving and kind of scary. For grown ups, they might sit back wondering "wow, what cool special effects" at first and then "I really have all that stuff in my house?". Everything from toasters to chainsaws, the tiny little soldiers turn everything into weapons of massive destruction. Kids however, might be frightened at how vicious and bloodthirsty the pint sized commandos get (can you tell I'm having fun with these nicknames?). Humans get physically harmed, even kids are assaulted and injured. This is no Toy Story, despite it being a perfect parallel, its legitimately violent and scary.

  Don't be put off, this is no horror movie. But its a far cry from something to market to little kids. Things get really intense towards the end, and some kids may not be able to handle it. Even though the good guys are cute, and the movie has a funnier, lighter side to it at times, I can see why the critics slammed it for being pushed so heavily towards the young youth demographic, but all they did was bury a good movie under loads of undue negativity. But I say let the power of the viewer prevail. People I know, like this movie. It's gotten around. Its a fun little action movie thats a grown up alternative to the tiny toys from Andy's bedroom with all their schmaltz and cuteness. This isn't Disney folks. And its all the stronger for it.

  Small Soldiers is witty, and sarcastic, its somewhat thought provoking, undeniably cool, visually interesting and full to the brim of gizmos, gadgets, and the latest in state of the art makeshift household weaponry and warfare. By the end of the movie, the neighborhood is a veritable battlefield with flaming wreckage, charred pieces of plastic, and all kinds of little weapons the baddies put together, strewn all over the lawns and streets. It escalates and escalates from its humble toy story beginnings to this block war thats pretty captivating to watch.
  I can't in good conscience say that the controversy over Small Soldiers itself is relevant anymore. No, now we have movies like The Dark Knight and The Dark Knight Rises lining toy isles at Wal-Mart with miniature versions of Batman himself, and his psychotic villains. Those movies are far more violent and at times, sadistic.

  There is no longer reason to fret over this quaint little adventure when I'm seeing five year olds sitting in on a screening of Predators. This isn't progress to be proud of though. We're so desensitized as a society, that stuff like that is only going to keep getting worse. Sad as that may be, theres no reason to not go out and rent this solid little actioner. You might be pleasantly surprised. And unfortunately, I won't be surprised either - if you find it in the kid's section. But seeing as how I've seen some kids are clamoring for Freddy or Chris Nolan's Batman... Small Soldiers might be the tamest thing they'll see all year.

  Perfect family movie...? I'll let you decide.

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