Promotional poster for US release of Small Soldiers
|Directed by||Joe Dante|
|Produced by||Michael Finnell
Steven Spielberg (executive producer; uncredited)
|Written by||Gavin Scott
Tommy Lee Jones
|Music by||Jerry Goldsmith|
|Edited by||Marshall Havey
|Distributed by||DreamWorks Pictures
(USA & Canada)
Small Soldiers is a 1998 American science fiction action film directed by Joe Dante. The film revolves around two adolescents who get caught in the middle of a war between two factions of sentient action figures, the Gorgonites and the Commando Elite.
Critical reception of the film was mixed. Critics complimented the film's special effects, but criticized some of the darker tone of the film, which had been marketed to a young audience, in spite of obtaining a PG-13 rating.
The film begins with GloboTech Industries acquiring the Heartland Toy Company. CEO Gil Mars tells remaining toy designers Larry Benson and Irwin Wayfair to develop actual live-action toys capable of "playing back". Mars selects Larry's action figures, the Commando Elite, for the project and Irwin's educational toys, the Gorgonites, for their enemies. After Mars sees a commercial showing the toys doing activities they are incapable of doing, he accuses them of false advertising, saying Globotech delivers on what it promises. Mars then orders Benson to have the toys on the shelves in three months acting just as they do in the commercial or get fired. Faced with such a tight deadline, Benson forgoes safety testing, then uses Irwin's password and chooses GloboTech's overly powerful, X1000 intelligent AI munitions microprocessor integrated circuit to control the toys.
Teenager Alan Abernathy signs off for a shipment of the toys at his family's toy store without his father's consent. He and a delivery truck driver named Joe investigate the toys introducing the Gorgonites' leader Archer and the Commando Elite's leader Chip Hazard. The daughter of Alan's next door neighbor and love interest, Christy Fimple, buys Chip as a birthday present for her brother Timmy. After Archer sneaks to Alan's home in Alan's backpack, Alan realizes that he is a sentient being, but in the meantime, the Commando Elite awaken and apparently destroy the Gorgonites in the toy store. Alan calls the company and fills in a complaint. Later, when Larry and Irwin listen to Alan's voice mail, Irwin is terrified to discover that the X1000 were originally designed for military purposes. Larry and Irwin head to the facility that made the munitions chips, and learn that action figures equipped with the X1000 chips can learn and grow based on their programming. However, they cannot stand an EMP since the shielding required to protect the chips was not cost-effective, which caused the government to shut down the project much to the creator's dismay.
Meanwhile, Chip and his squad pursue Alan to his home and attempt to kill him and Archer. Alan is attacked by Nick Nitro, whom he mortally wounds. The next day, Alan and Archer find the rest of the Gorgonites in a dumpster at the shop. At home, Alan learns that the primary goal of the Gorgonites is to seek their homeland Gorgon, which they mistakenly believe to be Yosemite National Park. The Commando Elite, aware of Alan's interest in Christy upon intercepting a phone call occurring between them, decide to take her hostage. They invade the Fimples' house, incapacitate Christy's parents with sleeping pills, tie up and gag Christy's little brother and place him in a closet, turn Christy's collection of Gwendy dolls into auxiliaries and finally capture Christy herself after she returns home from a date. The Gwendy dolls hold her down, tie her up with ropes and stuff a sock into her mouth to gag her. After hearing her scream, her boyfriend runs up to see her being held down and tied up the dolls, but flees when the toys attack him. The Commandos send a video message to Alan, telling him to surrender the Gorgonites. Alan and Archer distract the Commandos and sneak into the Fimple house to save Christy, who warms to Alan for his courage. She is tied to a chair and gagged with duct tape, but is freed by Archer. They are then pursued down the street by the Commando Elite in heavily armed kit-bash vehicles, but they are all destroyed during the chase - except Chip, who locates Joe's truck full of recalled Commandos.
Alan and Christy return to his house, only to find that Christy's parents, Phil and Marion (who is still in a state of disarray from the overdose) and Christy's little brother, Timmy, are there and are waiting for them. Phil accuses Alan of drugging them, locking their son in the closet, vandalizing their house and kidnapping Christy. When Alan and Christy tell the truth about what the Commando Elite did to her parents, Phil refuses to listen. As Christy, Phil, Marion, and Timmy are trying to leave Alan's house, Irwin and Larry arrive and seek out Alan. Alan's father punches Larry for designing those deadly toys. At that moment, Chip returns and attacks the house with the Commandos from Joe's truck, equipped with large numbers of improvised vehicles and weapons, and a battle breaks out between the Commando Elite and the humans inside, cutting off the house's electricity supply.
During the battle, the humans learn they can fry the toys' chips with an EMP blast. Alan heads out to destroy a nearby powerline to overload it and create such a pulse; Christy, Irwin and Larry head to the Fimples' house to turn on all of the electronic items inside and wedge the power transformers open to reinforce the pulse so it can charge up enough to destroy the Commando Elite. The normally peaceful Gorgonites exit the house and fight back against the Commando Elite. Chip flies to the top of the powerline pole to stop Alan, where he briefly battles and defeats Archer. But just as Chip claims victory, Alan seizes Chip and jams him into the powerline, triggering the EMP blast which kills Chip along with all of the remaining Commando Elite.
The next day, while the police and firefighters are cleaning up, Mars arrives in his helicopter. He pays Joe, the Fimples, and the Abernathys for damages as well as buying their silence from the media, and orders Larry and Irwin to prepare the Commando Elite for sale to military forces in South America. Amongst the craziness of the aftermath, Alan and Christy part on highly amicable terms, and Alan later discovers that the Gorgonites have screened themselves from the EMP blast by hiding underneath the Fimples' large satellite dish. The film ends with him accompanying them into Yosemite National Park, where he sends them out in a large toy boat from his father's store to find their island home of Gorgon as he watches them sail away.
- Gregory Smith as Alan Abernathy
- Frank Langella as the voice of Archer, the leader of the Gorgonites.
- Kirsten Dunst as Christy Fimple
- Tommy Lee Jones as the voice of Chip Hazard, the leader of the Commando Elite.
- George Kennedy as the voice of Brick Bazooka, the artillery expert.
- Jim Brown as the voice of Butch Meathook, the sniper.
- Ernest Borgnine as the voice of Kip Killigan, the covert operation expert.
- Clint Walker as the voice of Nick Nitro, the demolition expert.
- Bruce Dern as the voice of Link Static, the communication expert.
- Phil Hartman as Phil Fimple, Christy's father. This role was Hartman's last role in a major film before his death. The film is dedicated to his memory.
- Denis Leary as Gil Mars
- Kevin Dunn as Stuart Abernathy
- Ann Magnuson as Irene Abernathy
- Jay Mohr as Larry Benson
- David Cross as Irwin Wayfair
- Wendy Schaal as Marion Fimple
- Jacob Smith as Timmy Fimple
- Alexandra Wilson as Ms. Kegel
- Dick Miller as Joe
- Robert Picardo as Ralph
- Jonathan Bouck as Brad
- Belinda Balaski as Neighbor
- Rance Howard as Husband
- Jackie Joseph as Wife
Bruce Dern, along with George Kennedy, Ernest Borgnine, Jim Brown and Clint Walker, all cast members from The Dirty Dozen, provided voices for Commando Elite toys (Dern replaced another Dirty Dozen star, Richard Jaeckel, who died before shooting began). An uncredited Jim Cummings, along with This is Spinal Tap cast members Michael McKean, Harry Shearer and Christopher Guest, provided voices for the remaining Gorgonites. Sarah Michelle Gellar and Christina Ricci provided the voices for the transformed Gwendy dolls. Miller and Balaski, who were in the original versions of Piranha (1978) and The Howling (1981) (both directed by Dante), also acted in this film.
A soundtrack containing classic rock blended with hip hop was released on July 7, 1998 by DreamWorks Records. It peaked at 103 on the Billboard 200. The film score was composed and conducted by veteran composer Jerry Goldsmith. In addition, a video game based on the film was developed by DreamWorks Interactive and released by Electronic Arts on September 30, 1998. Kenner Products (a subsidiary of Hasbro) produced a line of toys, which featured all of the Gorgonites and Commando Elite. Burger King teamed up with the film to promote their new product, the Rodeo Burger. They also created a line of Kids Meal toys tied to the movie. They were met with some controversy after the movie received a 'PG-13' rating from the MPAA. Burger King executives claimed this caught the company by surprise and they were led to believe the movie would receive no higher than a 'PG' rating. While the pamphlet accompanying the toys included the disclaimer "While toys are suitable for children of all ages, the movie Small Soldiers may contain material that is inappropriate for younger children," some restaurants accepted an exchange for Mr. Potato Head toys.
Also, a special livery race car for Bobby Labonte was intended to be raced on July 4, 1998 at the Pepsi 400, which was to run on CBS primetime television. Because of the Florida wildfires, the car was instead raced three months later at the Winston 500 NASCAR race (October 11) on ESPN, where the car (a restrictor plate car) would have been used next.
|This section requires expansion with: more reception. (October 2014)|
- Philpot, Robert (1998-12-06). "1998's top closing moments". Fort Worth Star-Telegram. p. Arts 1.
- Neville, Ken. ""Small Soldiers," Big Controversy". E Online. Retrieved 12 May 2015.
- "Rotten Tomatoes".
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