An eccentric toymaker's last wish is that his brother takes over the running of the business. The brother is a military General, and is out of touch with toymaking, and out of touch with reality too. The business should really have been given to Leslie, who was much more like his toymaking father. When the General starts making weapons instead of toys, Leslie decides to take action. Written by
Toys is a movie easily overlooked and dismissed as childish and nonsensical. Nothing could be further from the truth though, as it is a movie of surprising depth and style.
The first point that must be covered is the performance given by Robin Williams as Leslie Zevo. Although it is fraught with his almost trademark wackiness there is an underlying current of a man who is on the edge of coming into his own. The layers of the character he plays are subtly shown, as Leslie is a man who is strong, but unsure of his strength and covers that insecurity with comedy and whimsy.
The film is visually striking, a real art department tour de force, and is very much removed from any hint of the past at first glance. Looking deeper into the visuals however reveals the films deeper content of classic surrealist motifs, especially that of dismembered body parts and other parts separated from the whole. Partially assembled dolls, the parts of which come out of machines that are shaped as further separated body parts, are shown throughout. Alsatia lives in rooms within rooms that seem separated from the wholeness of houses, and indeed lives in a paper fold-out doll house herself, the reasons for which become quite apparent by the films end.
This aesthetic choice, combined with the toys vs. weapons juxtaposition makes the films textual purpose clear. Toys is a surrealist reaction to the end of the Cold War, in the very same vein as the original surrealists reactions to the end of the First World War. The film even makes several direct references to one of the surrealist masters, Rene Magrite, especially in the music video sequence. This places Toys in a very deep anti-war tradition, one that is expressed very openly in the entire premise of a General taking control of a toy company and turning it to military purpose.
Any who would dismiss this film as merely childish surely owe it to themselves to take another look at this surrealist masterpiece and lose themselves in the quirky visuals and creative world that is placed on screen.
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