Starring: Kirsten Dunst, Gregory Smith, David Cross
Director: Joe Dante
Running Time: 110 mins
Small Soldiers is an American film about a teenage boy who accidentally loses a group of state-of-the-art toy soldiers, who come to life to defeat their arch enemies, located in the boy’s house, meaning that he and his family become caught up in this little war.
Basically, this film is good if you want to watch something which you don’t need to use your brain for, and it can be entertaining in that way. However, if you start to pick it apart, it’s a very annoying film, with a strangely dark tone, annoying animation, a frustrating story, and a massively over-long running time.
I’ll start with the positives of this film. The premise is for kids, and although, as I said, there is a slightly darker tone to the film, it’s not something that will make this inappropriate for kids. Because of that, it’s got such a simple and predictable story that it requires very little in the way of concentration to get through it and be entertained.
However, that’s not the mark of a good film, I think that it has still got to be entertaining even when you think about it, even if it is a kids-oriented film. The problem is, to watch this with even a modicum of concentration, it becomes hugely frustrating and simply irritating to watch.
One of the things that unexpectedly annoyed me was the CGI. Yes, it it was good and fluid, but I really don’t think that the style they went for suited the toys coming to life. I expected something a little bit more stop-motion-like, because they’re actually not toys that come to life, but are designed to move around like they’re alive. So, seeing as you didn’t get that mechanical feel on screen, I felt that the whole concept became a whole lot less convincing.
Also, the story here is so generic and boring in reality. The two main human characters are very plain, seeming totally unrelated at points to the war between the toys. Even worse, a random romance develops between those two in the last five seconds of the film, which is perfect evidence of a cheesy, formulaic movie.
The worst part about the story, however, is the ending. I felt that the first hour and a bit of the film was entertaining enough, although it definitely could have been cut down, however the end, a battle between the toys which the humans are caught up in, lasts for over half an hour, and is by far one of the most frustrating and excessively long finales I’ve ever seen, which contributes to this film’s near two-hour runtime, which I think is totally over-the-top for a kids’ film.
Overall, this gets a 6.5, because despite being a simple film with some decent animation, it’s a constantly frustrating and often very boring formula of a kids’ film.