Yesterday, this column reviewed “Men in Black,” a science fiction comedy released in 1997. The following year, another sci-fi comedy, “Small Soldiers,” was released. Both “Men in Black” and “Small Soldiers” feature Tommy Lee Jones.
“Small Soldiers” stars Gregory Smith as Alan, a typical teenager who works in an unsuccessful toy store run by his dad, Stu (played by Kevin Dunn). Alan has a crush on the pretty girl next door, Christy (played by Kirsten Dunst). Still holding on to values associated with the 1960s, Stu is opposed to selling toys that reinforce violence. But when dad is away, the much more entrepreneurial Alan convinces a pliable delivery man to front him a set of soldier toys, called the “Commando Elite,” as well as a set of their enemies, the “Gorgonites.” The leader of the “Commando Elite” is Chip Hazard (voiced by Jones), and the leader of the “Gorgonites” is Archer (voiced by Frank Langella). Neither Alan nor the delivery man is aware of the fact that the toys have been made with advanced military technology. Because of this, the commandos create chaos. They try to find the Gorgonites. Alan befriends Archer, and they, along with the other Gorgonites battle the commandos.
“Small Soldiers” is directed by Joe Dante, best known for directing “Gremlins.” Like that movie, it is a lot of fun to watch these small creatures terrorize the main human characters. It is also enjoyable because they know they are very smart toys and are able to make interesting gadgets. The film also has a subtle message that suggests that corporations are fairly ruthless in their desire to profit on the mechanization of war, the reason the toys are a part of an experiment in service to a goal of selling high tech tools to military establishments.
The cast is strong. Gregory Smith makes a sympathetic lead. Phil Hartman, in one of his last performances, is excellent as Christy’s dad, a techno geek who annoys everyone in the neighborhood.
“Small Soldiers” is a very enjoyable action/comedy.