Thursday, June 20, 2013

Day One Hundred and Seventy-one - Toys, "Less about the Toyman and more about his Villain"

There's something so perfect about Toys.

It has just the right amount of whimsy coupled with actual drama, but done in a way that is accessible to folks of all ages.

Set in a fictional toy factory that appears to be run by Willy Wonka's Californian cousins, Toys is nominally the tale of how Robin Williams' character Leslie, as the son of the late owner, discovers his scheming uncle's plans to make war machines out of toys and soldiers out of kids... at least, on the surface.

Watching it now, the movie feels more like a depiction of Uncle Leland (Michael Gambon) and his slow descent into madness as he goes from broken warhorse to reluctant CEO to power mad Lord of War, a would be weapons manufacturer for the new age of modern miniaturized combat. I have to laud Gambon's performance as a REMF who's way past his prime trying to apply cold war principles to a modern company. He and Joan Cusack are the highlights of the film.

That's not to say that Robin Williams isn't fun and masterful, but he's pretty much brilliant in anything he does. Cusack, though, as the eccentric yet insightful robot sister and Gambon as their familial foil just make my day.

I also enjoy LL Cool J as their cousin, Patrick. While it's not the most inspired acting I've seen, it's still a fun role for him. I just wish they'd established the impetus for his third act turn a bit more firmly. His relationship to his grandfather's nurse comes out of nowhere just so she can drop a bomb on him and force a camp switch.

Now that I think about it, my only regret is that there wasn't enough room for Robin Wright's Gwen to really spread her wings in the piece. She's really just a convenient love interest for Leslie and doesn't seem to serve any real purpose. Supposedly she's there to force him to grow up, but I have to say that I see very little difference between pre-Gwen Leslie and post.

Getting off the actors and onto the message, I really like how prescient the film is concerning the current trend in warfare.

Way back in 1992, Barry Levinson and Valerie Curtin called it with unmanned drones becoming the vanguard of our armed forces. While I've yet to see the real boots on the ground being replaced by shin-high mini-tanks en masse, aerial drones certainly have a much higher public profile that I think the government would like... and remote controlled bomb and ground surveillance drones and the like are present in most theaters now.

Also, the factory itself... I swear that Google looked to Toys and Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory for their inspiration.

Toys is a great film that I don't think would be made today, considering what most studios are passing for live-action family entertainment nowadays. The closest we could ever get to the whimsy would be Pixar, I think... and their messages are more universal and less on the nose, which is good.

Finally, the Mtv sequence? Brilliant!

Until tomorrow, Potatoes~

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