Howdy all you Supercultists out there on the interwebz! I’m Bad Movie Professor Cameron Coker (BS in “Dreamworks” with a minor in “Age Appropriate Entertainment”) and I’ll be posting my hype-tacular speeches every week along with some long lost speeches from past Supercult Shows!
This week Supercult burns all of our old toys for fear that they will turn against us after watching Small Soldiers!
When top defense contractor GloboTech Industries acquires the Heartland Toy Company a new breed of action figure is born, but an extra component was added to the toy line: Globo Tech’s military grade microprocessor, the X1000. Now the untested toys are in the stores and in the hands of teenager Alan Abernathy who quickly realizes that the toys have minds of their own, and a violent mission to go with them! Join Supercult for some big trouble in Small Soldiers!
From Dreamworks, the studio that brought you Evolution, Antz, and the Tuxedo starring Jackie Chan, comes Toy Story! I mean, Gremlins! I mean, Tiny Hippies vs. Pint-Sized Parental Guidance Warnings! Released in 1998, Small Soldiers is a sci-fi horror film masquerading as a family action/adventure flick. After a teenager mistakenly winds up with two sets of sentient toys (the heroic ultra-violent Commando Elite, and the peace-loving Gorgonites who have been co-opted as the Commando’s sworn enemies), the toys come to life and wage war. But make no bones about it: Small Soldiers is not a movie for kids.
With Tommy Lee Jones as the voice of Chip Hazard, the leader of the Commando Elite, Frank Langella (who Supercultists may remember from his role as Skeletor in Masters of the Universe) as the voice of Archer, leader of the Gorgonites, alongside Gregory Smith as Alan Abernathy and Kirsten Dunst as Christy Fimple (Fimple? Seriously?), Small Soldiers was overtly marketed to children, despite being rated PG-13. On the surface it’s a compelling premise. The pacifistic Gorgonites, who are inspired by the Masters of the Universe toy line, embody the moral of never judging a book by its cover while a minor subplot explores a controlling father finally letting go and trusting his son. However, the blood-thirsty, GI-Joe inspired Commando Elite are played like mercenary soldier versions of Chucky from the Child’s Play horror series.
On top of that the toys, especially the Gorgonites, are portrayed as having true sentience, individuals with emotions that think for themselves. The CGI and practical effects, to their credit, do an excellent job of selling their realism and personalities (Stan Winston, who also did effects on Terminator 2 and Aliens, reportedly took his team to meet with Hasbro in order to better understand how toys are constructed). Yet horribly unspeakable things happen to them. They are blown up, melted, electrocuted, shredded in a lawn mower, taken apart and stitched back together. If these were actual humans Small Soldiers would be rated R. When Burger King teamed up with the film to promote their new Rodeo Burger they also created a line of Kids Meal toys tied to the movie. When the film’s PG-13 rating was released Burger King executives claimed this caught them by surprise and that they were led to believe the movie would be rated PG. In response Burger King was forced to produce a pamphlet accompanying the toys which included a disclaimer: “While toys are suitable for children of all ages, the movie Small Soldiers may contain material that is inappropriate for younger children.”
Small Soldiers has a 6.1 on IMDB and a 48% on Rotten Tomatoes. While some critics praised the film for its effects, audacious attitude, and the pop-culture in-jokes typical of director Joe Dante (who is best known for directing the Gremlins films) while others criticized it for its ambiguous tone and the slapped together script that reeks of product placement. For my part however, I am just upset that I didn’t get to watch this film until I was 13 and I developed taste.
Here’s to you Small Soldiers…the movie I never got to enjoy properly…until now, after my taste has come full circle into Supercult territory!
The Supercult show is proud to present, Small Soldiers!