Toys (1992) Poster

(1992)

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10/10
One of the most underrated movies of all time
RingoZeitgeist15 December 2004
It's hard to think of a movie that divides its audience as deeply as "Toys" does. Few people will say this movie is "fair." Instead, people often call it the best movie ever made or the worst... and they mean it!

Even its severest critics grudgingly admit that it's visually stunning and has perhaps the best soundtrack of the decade ("Happy Worker" is a classic, and "At the Closing of the Year" is, in my opinion, the best Christmas song written in the past 30 years). It's clearly Oscar-worthy in the categories of music and set design.

Most people who've seen it agree that Joan Cusack's quirky characterization is wonderful and that the vignettes provided Robin Williams with a springboard for some of the best ad libs of his career. And the story, a whimsical fable of innocence versus corruption, is as unlikely to give offense as any you can name. So, you'd expect the movie's critics to say "I didn't care for it," instead of "Everyone associated with this movie should be ashamed!"

When I like something and others don't, I hesitate to say they don't "get it," but in the case of "Toys," it really is true. It's no coincidence that many visual references to the work of Rene Magritte keep popping up. "Toys" is a surrealist movie, and like any work of surrealism, it has a simple veneer over a more sophisticated message, one that defies explanation and works on the level of a dream. This movie is more "Mulholland Drive" than "Willie Wonka."

Whether you will like this movie depends entirely on how your mind works. Poets will probably love it. Engineers will probably hate it.
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9/10
A surprisingly deep film.
Dwolvesbane15 December 2008
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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10/10
A Window to Enlightenment
mikefox198314 October 2012
On the surface I suppose its easy for one to judge this movie as nothing more than an early 90's wacky comedy that lacks depth and meaning. I actually saw this movie in theaters when i was a kid, and quite honestly didn't think that much of it, however, the images always stuck with me for some reason. Watching this film again as an adult, I can honestly say that not only is this a great movie, but it is truly a work of art. To me, this film represents innocence, and what happens when innocence is threatened by forces of destruction. The shots and images in this film are astounding. It feels as If you are staring at a fine abstract painting. The music is well done and only enhances the beautiful imagery. Sure it has its corny parts, but in a way, that's what adds to this film's personality. Overall, this movie will either move you or it wont. If you are someone who only likes big Hollywood movies then you probably wont enjoy this film. If you are an abstract thinker then this may be your cup of tea. Overall, Toys is an acquired taste, however, once acquired you will be staring into a window of enlightenment.
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7/10
An unappreciated and underrated gem
joshwinkler8720 September 2009
As a young child, Barry Levinson's 1992 film "Toys" was one of my favorite movies. At a young age I was fascinated by such a visually beautiful and surreal world that this mostly forgotten and seldom talked about film portrays. While the story of the film, which you can read about in the other reviews, is not the most well put together or best flowing story ever written, the witty comedy and especially the surrealism of it make up for this. Even Roger Ebert wrote in his review "Visually one of the most extraordinary films I've seen, a delight for the eyes, a bright new world."

While "Toys" was a box office flop and panned by critics, if you ask me, they failed to fully indulge themselves in the power of the film and it's special message about peace, joy, and innocence prevailing over war and evil.

If you are a fan of Salvador Dali's work or just a fan of surrealism in general, "Toys" is the perfect film for you. It's hard to think of another film with such vivid set designs that uses surrealism is such a creative and intelligent way. If you are just looking for a good comedy film to watch you might like "Toys" but this film is not for everyone. Approach the film with an open mind and I think you will either "Get It" or you won't.
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10/10
Time to play...
Mister-624 January 2000
People can be funny about movies like "Toys".

They'll analyze them to death, wonder what underlying messages are hidden in the subtext, how much the FX cost, what the actors were thinking, all BEFORE they let the movie begin. I don't think about things like that when watching a movie at first. I just decide if I was entertained or not.

I was.

"Toys" uses Williams' natural exuberance and Cusack's looniness to its benefit and make them the most unique characters in a movie that ISN'T about toys as much as it is childhood, life, death and whatever happens to be in between. I especially liked Cusack's comment at her father's funeral about the tin horn.

Gambon plays the "serious-minded" adult who traipses into toyland and decides to declare war. What happens? About what you'd expect. Or maybe not, I dunno. What can you expect in a movie where it makes up its own rules along the way, just like a child at play?

I loved the production design and a lot of toys are just downright cute. Williams' speech to the toys near the end that hybrids Gandhi and Churchill with a little of "Begin the Beguine" is a classic in my book. And Cusack's fate is somewhat of a shock. LL Cool J does a pretty good job as does Gambon. Wright is pretty, as always, and you have to love that down-home accent (and dolphin imitation).

In the end, "Toys" breaks free of the world like the elephant during the end credits, making a world all its own, one where children's rules apply and simply allowing yourself to be a child is the perfect remedy to adulthood. Maybe THAT'S what a lot of people don't understand about this movie.

Nice Job, Barry.

Ten stars and a smoking jacket for "Toys", the movie that proves there's a time and a place for children's things, as long as you don't let growing up spoil it for you.
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10/10
A wonderfully misunderstood and neglected work of genius
DeKlerk16 March 2000
This has to be one of my all-time favourite films, in the same league as "Run Lola Run", "Pi", and "Contact" for films that make you feel something you've always known to be true but just weren't quite aware of. Never have I seen such a subtle and innocent social critique. Amazing visuals, wacky sound effects, and a well-suited musical score add tremendously to the already brilliant plot. This film is much more than a simple movie, it is a work of art. Consider yourself lucky if you get to see this gem, for most will surely overlook it.
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10/10
A Movie for Those Of Us Who Refuse To Grow Up
coolelle9 July 2000
This movie rivals Time Bandits for the best movie for adults who refuse to grow up. It has all the subtle, intelligent jokes the adult in you could want, AND all of the slapstick and visual humor the child in you needs. The entire move is set in a huge field of very green grass. The colors are primary and silly. The subtext is incredibly fascinating. And the music! The music involves some of the best rock and pop artists of the time! Hooray for Toys!
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Ultimately Contradictory
hausrathman8 January 2004
An eccentric, pacifistic toymaker, Robin Williams, learns to take responsibility and assert himself after his father leaves the family toy factory to his uncle, Michael Gambon, a retired army general, who violates the company philosophy by making war toys. Director Barry Levinson, a sometimes brilliant writer, used his considerable prestige to make this very big film built around this very simple analogy: War is bad/innocence (toys) is good. This film would have had more relevance in 1972 than 1992. As it is, it is two decades too late and two tons too heavy. Worse still, the climax is directly contradicts the theme of the film. Robin Williams is only able to gain the maturity to take control of the company by waging a toy war. Hmmmm, maybe war isn't so bad after all. Still, the film is not a total washout. The sets are quite imaginative, and the film does manage to generate an interesting atmosphere - if you're in the mood for such things. The most interesting thing, however, is the casting of rapper LL Cool J as Michael Gambon's son and Robin Williams' cousin. No explanation is given for the fact that he's African-American. That's a nice touch.
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9/10
My favorite...
garnet_Bill2 April 2004
I remember seeing this movie was first released, when I was seven, and I've loved ever since. Even though I'm 19 now, I still enjoy watching it. I really love Robing Williams and Joan Cusack's acting, especially Joan's. Her character has always been my favorite. The writing is very good, the humor is right on, the costumes are great(especially Alstatia's), the acting is great, the music is great(my favorite song is Happy Worker by Tori Amos). I believe that this movie will be my favorite until the day I die. One of my favorite scenes has to be when Leslie(Robin) is in the room with the three other people discussing the fake vomit, when the walls start coming in on them. "Is this room getting smaller or am I bloated?" "Like we're getting attacked by a cross-word puzzle." "Why does this has coconut in it?"-"Oh, that's diarrhea. It shoudn't be here." I give this movie 9 *'s out of 10 *'s.
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1/10
Damaged in shipment...
Merwyn Grote28 April 2004
You get a gift. It is exquisitely wrapped. The box it is in is hand crafted out of the finest wood and shows skill down to the smallest detail. That is then wrapped in gorgeous paper, handmade and hand-painted by the most talented of artists. The whole thing is wrapped in ribbons made from fine silk lace. It is a sight to behold.

Then you cut the ribbon, rip off the paper, open up the box, and find...nothing. That's TOYS. You either enjoy the packaging, or forget about it.

The film isn't without its point and purpose: War is a not a good thing. Well, isn't that original! The moral is so obvious that it is almost embarrassing to even point it out. And even that feeble insight is undercut by a story in which elements of war -- war toys in particular -- are clearly a bad thing, until they need an exciting climax and the film simulates a war using innocent toys. It's like someone preaching a stern, condescending sermon, only to end by saying "Just kidding."

But even as an empty box, the film fails close scrutiny. Yes, it is a sight to behold with some remarkable, striking images. The sets are imaginative and the cinematography catches the colorful scenes with skill. But the images are cold and emotionally sterile. Like the screenplay, the look of the film is joyless and at times aesthetically barren and surreal. It is a film that wants to praise toys as wonderful and special things, yet shows them to be creations of a world that is empty and cold. The film strives to be funny, in a morose sort of way, but the humor is forced and artificial. Robin Williams, as the beleaguered heir to a toy manufacturing empire, tosses in his ad-lib shtick, which only seems alien to the bizarre, coldly structured world he is inhabiting. Indeed, the topical references and tasteless sexual innuendo that are scattered throughout are jarringly contradictory to the childlike fable the film is vaguely trying to be. For this film to work, or make sense, it needs to be set in its own universe, an Oz far removed from Kansas. Every time the jokes jerk us back into reality, the toyland of the film increasingly becomes an obvious sham.

It is said that this was director Barry Levinson's pet project, one that he had been striving to get made for ten years. It is sadly obvious why he had trouble getting backing. Like most pet projects that finally get made (RADIOLAND MURDERS, RADIO FLYER & BATTLEFIELD: EARTH being great examples) it seems to be a blind spot in the filmmaker's field of vision. Perhaps Levinson directed and redirected TOYS so often in his head that he no fresh vision for it when he finally got on the soundstage. He had already perfected it to death.

Many of the toys featured in the film are clumsy, mechanical, wind-up monstrosities. So is the film itself.
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