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Scott Ventura >> Movie Commentary >> February 1999 >> Small Soldiers

Small Soldiers

Movie Commentary by Scott Ventura


Scott's Rating:
2 / 5
Times Seen:
Viewing Date:
February 1999
IMDB Name:
Small Soldiers (1998)
Joe Dante
action, comedy
MPAA Rating:
PG-13 for some menacing action/violence and brief drug references.

Too Late

Overwhelmingly, the only thing that makes Small Soldiers unique is also the only thing that makes it watchable. The action figures (with heavy emphasis on action) are the most believable characters because their dialogue actually sounds like it could come from toys, unlike all of the human characters, whose dialogue could only come from a screenwriter. It would have been really nice going into the movie to have known the celebrities who were lending their voices to the real stars of the movie. Some, like Tommy Lee Jones and Ernest Borgnine have instantly recognizable voices, but I was at a loss to pick out three of the primaries from Spinal Tap ( McKean, Guest, and Shearer ). Putting this information in the opening credits would've done it, but it's only at the end.

Weighing down a creative concept like toys that play back with stock human drama is a big mistake. We have a son who has to win back his father's trust. Same kid is trying to overcome his previous record and still get the girl. These subplots do occasionally feed into the plot as contrivances, but they don't help. The dialogue in these scenes is particularly unconvincing and unoriginal, revealing the cheap attempt at drama.

Bye, Phil

Small Soldiers is the last entry in Phil Hartman's filmography. His role is small, but he gives it the perfect balance between straight-faced conviction and good timing that made him so much fun to watch. The deleted scenes show off his talent even better, and the inclusion of the ones featuring him might've made for a better movie.

DVD Comments

The production values of the DVD-specific features are pretty good. Bonus points for the scene index, which features full-motion reductions instead of stills. The transition sequence from menu to menu is funny once, but, of course, happens every time. About as annoying, the text of some of the main menu items spends about half of the time in some unreadable mutation. The deleted scenes are particularly funny, but it's obvious why they're left out: the running time is already far too close to two hours for the attention span of the audience. The bloopers weren't at all funny, and the cast'n'crew notes aren't very exciting. The making-of video is interesting primarily for the quick glimpses of the animation production techniques and visual confirmation of the identities of some of the voice actors. It includes a small segment in which the Chip Hazard character is treated like an actor, not unlike the "bloopers" in A Bug's Life. I probably don't need to tell you that it's not nearly as funny.

See the IMDB information on Small Soldiers's DVD or compare prices at DVD Price Search.

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Copyright 1999-2002 by Scott Ventura. All rights reserved.