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Overall Rating

Awesome: 12.79%
Worth A Look: 22.09%
Pretty Bad: 24.42%
Total Crap: 9.3%

8 reviews, 38 user ratings

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Small Soldiers
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by Thom

"Gremlins, but better."
3 stars

Obviously tongue-in-cheek film mis-marketed as a children's flick but with potential cult status for the media-weary Generation X'er who has drank deeply from the cistern of popular culture before becoming jaded intellectuals with "something to say".

Put your high hat on autopilot and sit through a couple hours worth of sly consumer and media culture criticism, feminist jabs at the patriarchal domination and warfare model of social organization and referential nods to the pre-cursor of Small Soldiers, Gremlins.

Small Soldiers is essentially Gremlins but instead of gremlins, you have toy soldiers of the kill and destroy school and their "enemy", the nature-loving life-affirming Gorgonites. It's a film of hyphenated proportions.

This movie is ostensibly a children's movie but it is overwrought with not only adult themes, but educated, opinionated adult themes. I don't know what kids would get out of this movie. Its not about toys, and its not about young love. The conflict between the values of the culture of domination and war and the culture of partnership and nature is one of the main themes in this film. There is also a hint of art vs. capital.

The scene of the Franken-Gwendies is straight up the Distorted Barbies project that was sued by Mattel for defaming the holy name of Barbie by daring to suggest that perhaps Barbie is not only an impossible ideal but an insult to women. Lovely riffs on the "math is hard" talking Barbie. Imagine an army of distorted Barbies kicking ass and saying things like "let's go shopping!".

Small Soldiers is full of subversive social content that will fly over the heads of kids but will hit you squarely on the jaw if you have been trained to recognize it or are familiar with some of the anti-consumer, anti-media art campaigns or its attendant criticism.

You know what you are in for when film starts out with a CEO (Dennis Leary) saying, "its not violence, its action. Action sells." That sentence starts off with denial, changes meaning and then brings it home. The entire meaning of "violence" is changed by the patriarch who uses coercion to force the executors of the will of the state, the toy inventors, to promote the new social order where the love of beauty and harmony with nature is traded for profit by bloodshed.

Small Soldiers is ripe for a fruitful feminist or queer criticism. Even the part where the girly-girl barbies who exist as property of men are turned into warriors not for their own emancipation but to serve the war state. It is the complete eradication of the feminine principal and the exaltation of the male principal in culture to disastrous ends.

Wonderful stop-motion and other animatronic effects. The Frankenstein theme comes up in several scenes of manic cross-referencing. So knowingly a tribute to Gremlins that the word Gizmo is used twice in the film.

Small Soldiers is a sneaky baptism into the rhetoric of dissent against a male-dominated war culture where women are chattel and being a man means being a killer and violence is used to enforce conformity to the ideal of destruction and domination as normative masculine behaviour.

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originally posted: 12/28/99 17:49:26
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User Comments

3/29/16 Aj wales Dante does more with a few toy soldiers than snyder did with the man of steel. 5 stars
3/31/13 TrueBada$$Chick Why were the Farbies in camouflage bikinis & spouting sexist, instead of war, phrases? 1 stars
11/10/10 jack its on cartoon network right now, and it is pissiing me off 1 stars
3/29/08 Pamela White fantastic story and cute amination 4 stars
2/16/07 Vip Ebriega A darker use of the 'Toy Story' idea of living toys. 4 stars
1/14/07 WHAT "I much prefer this to Toy Story"? Rob, were you high when you wrote this review? 2 stars
9/28/06 David Cohen Mean spirited, wimpy heroes, cop-out ending, defines total crap 1 stars
12/29/05 Evan low budget CRAP! 2 stars
8/18/05 ES The army men in toy story were far superior 2 stars
6/22/05 darick OK but...does this movie belong to any category? 3 stars
1/15/05 Jeff Anderson Not Joe Dante's best, but great special effects and a good cast save it. 3 stars
11/25/04 joe it was a funnie and dermend movie 4 stars
11/22/03 ross hendrick Far too scary 3 stars
5/02/03 Jon Lyrik Not bad, but rips off a few elements from Toy Story and is a tad stupid. 3 stars
10/11/02 SiliconHero Another crappy movie bites the dust...RIP Phil Hartman. 2 stars
4/26/02 Jennifer dah stupidest movie ever 1 stars
10/02/01 Andrew Carden The Action Holds Your Attention, Pretty Stupid Though. 3 stars
8/09/01 E-Funk Completely in the Joe Dante tradition...a warm welcome back from a 5-year hiatus. 5 stars
5/07/01 Gracy Lionheart The only part I remember is Dunst smashing barbie like dolls. BoRiNg 2 stars
3/06/00 Kyle Broflovski Cat-piss cocktail. That one extra star is for the soundtrack, and ONLY the soundtrack. 2 stars
10/30/99 Bozo Ditto J-Dogg (below) word for word 1 stars
7/04/99 J-Dogg Dante's got another shit-flick, too violent for children, too stupid for adults. Trash it. 1 stars
6/21/99 Ed Wood Death to the Gorgonites! You'll LOVE this movie! Hilarious from beginning to end 5 stars
3/17/99 Go Swans Nasty, nasty, nasty film. Where was it supposed to be entertaining? 2 stars
12/20/98 Jeff **** 4 stars
11/28/98 Mr.Pink Childish and moronic stupidity. 1 stars
11/14/98 Rageboy This movie was really cool! Smart, Funny, Action! 5 stars
11/05/98 Bad Kosh Wait... those G.I. Joe toys are the villains? What do you know! Fair movie, but take some. 4 stars
9/20/98 MR HOLLYWOOD pure SHIT!!,too violent for kiddies and too boring for biggies,waste of money!!! 1 stars
9/07/98 Damien This movie was cool, everybody failed to see the satire in it, Joe Dante rules! 4 stars
9/06/98 Noah I think that this movie was basically Toy Story on Crack. Ultra-Violent in parts. 3 stars
9/06/98 Gary Interesting premise but missed the boat / Bargain Matinee only 3 stars
8/28/98 Aslan the lion This movie is tight, i loved every minute of it... seen it 5 times 5 stars
8/24/98 The Capital City Goofball I really liked it. Not just for kids, though take some. 4 stars
8/23/98 Mister Whoopee Phil Hartman getting shot at. Spooky. 2 stars
8/16/98 Johny Good effects, little else 2 stars
8/13/98 {{OZ}} For a kid's movie, this was pretty scary. Seriously. 3 stars
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  10-Jul-1998 (PG-13)
  DVD: 08-Feb-2005


  17-Sep-1998 (PG)

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