Monday, February 1, 2010

Review - Toys (1992)

“There's a madman at the factory, and it's no longer me.”

Director: Barry Levinson
Starring: Robin Williams, Michael Gambon, Joan Cusack, LL Cool J
Screenplay: Valerie Curtin, Barry Levinson

What can be said about Toys? The original trailer was Robin Williams just standing in a field trying to pitch the movie to the audience, in fact The Simpsons even made fun of it once. It was weird and had Robin being as funny as possible, it also stood out from other movies, but it didn’t really work. In a way that sums up the movie as well.

When Kenneth Zevo dies it seems obvious that his son Leslie Zevo (Robin Williams) will inherit the company, however it turns out that Leslie’s Uncle, Lt General Leland Zevo (Michael Gambon) is the one chosen by Kenneth as there are fears Leslie is too immature to really be the one to look after not only the company but the employees. So set in this surreal world of a toy factory begins a battle between Leslie and Leland, where Leslie has to learn to grow up and become the man.

Honestly after setting up the plot etc I have no real clue where to begin with this review. I’ve watched this movie few times and do enjoy it, but it’s a mess. I really like the main theme that centres on childhood and growing up but not losing all the innocence, it’s nicely illustrated by what Leslie will become and what Leland has become. However sometimes the story and themes can be lost. It just seems like there was a message but it gets hampered by the characters or gets thrown aside just so a wonderful looking set piece can come to the front. The movie is deep but people might get tired of the digging.

With the two leads I have no problems with Robin Williams or Michael Gambon, they fit their roles well and play off each other so that it does seem like they are family. LL Cool J is also pretty damn good as Captain Patrick Zevo son of Leland, he has a good grasp of blending a hard militaristic personality yet softening it with decency. The problem with the acting is that these characters are supposed to be over the top in order to fit the surreal world of Toys, which means for the viewers there are no characters to really connect with.

So that brings us to the world of Toys. Visually this movie is awesome. Barry Levinson has created a world that is so weird yet completely seems realistic for the story. The toy factory allows for some nice set pieces, including a room that is shrinking while people are in it, a life size paper doll testing room and a computer room that any gamer would want. This movie could be considered art, just the visuals are unique to the movie and honestly the symbolism if any would be completely up to the viewer.

As a whole the biggest problem is that the movie is too ambitious. It’s trying to be something special and while it might succeed in one respect everything else isn’t up to scratch. If anything I would recommend one viewing for someone to just be able to take in what’s on screen. You may not get much out of the story or the characters but something you saw might just stick with you.

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