DVD Review: Small Soldiers
by George Grant
Published: April 5, 2001
USA, 1998 DreamWorks Distribution L.L.C.
Directed by Joe Dante
David Cross as Irwin Wayfair
Jay Mohr as Larry Benson
Alexandra Wilson as Ms. Kegel
Denis Leary as Gil Mars
Additional information available at the Internet Movie Database.
Hi there folks, today we’re looking at the Region 2 release of Small Soldiers, the masterpiece that is walking talking toy commandos.
Just be glad they don’t make Pokemon this way. The limits of ‘it talks, it walks, it tries to shoot your face off’ action figure are finally met in the first film from director Joe Dante since 1993’s Matinee. The new owner of a toy company (Dennis Leary) demands improved sales in short order, so the overly keen Larry Benson, (Jay Mohr) decides to incorporate military computer technology to spice up the toy market.
As a result, a range of chipped toy soldiers called the Commando Elite, led by Major Chip Hazzard (voiced by Tommy Lee Jones), are rushed onto the market. These are toys that are designed to play back and interact to the limit. The Commando Elite are programmed to battle the ugly but peace-loving Gorgonite range of toys, and a fault in the chip means that they will stop at nothing to destroy their opponents – and anyone else around them.
You’d be forgiven for getting halfway through Small Soldiers and thinking that you have seen this all before. You have, and it was from the same director. Small Soldiers is Gremlins lite, devoid of the downright wickedness and humour of Dante’s earlier piece. This is a movie that thrives on special effects and has to look to a much less cynical audience to find acceptance, which is clear from the mild ‘12’ rating (Closest equivalent to the US PG-13 rating). Even in Gremlins, an entire town was under siege, here, it’s just two houses.
Nevertheless, there is a lot to enjoy if you know where to look, particularly on the DVD. A full compliment of extras, including some nice bloopers and deleted scenes, are all part of the package. Also part of the package is a brief, but fully charged behind-the-scenes featurette and one of the sharpest visual/audio transfers I’ve seen on this format yet. It all goes to prove that regardless of the movie, when it comes to DVD Columbia Tristar knows how to play with the best toys.
They may only be 12 inches tall and made entirely of plastic, but the stars of Small Soldiers certainly do have some stellar talent behind their lungs. Not only is the leader Major Chip Hazzard, voiced by the unmistakable Tommy Lee Jones, but his military motley crew is made up from the original line up from the Dirty Dozen. Including George Kennedy, Ernest Borgnine and Jim Brown, along with the help of Bruce Dern. As for the Gorgonites, Frank Langella lends his vocal talent to the leader Archer and the full ensemble of Spinal Tap make up the monstrous mob. And to top things off Sarah Michelle Gellar and Christina Ricci help bring a collection of Gwendy dolls to life.
A stand out moment would be when Major Chip Hazzard goes all Frankenstein on a bunch of Gwendy dolls in a bid to defeat the Gorgonites.
If you like this then try Toy Story 2. This demonstrates the best abuse of CGI effects on the modern day toy market to date.
Well that’s it for now folks..Keep ‘em peeled soon for an instalment of The G-Spot. As usual you can contact me from the address at the top of the page. Later!!