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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
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.
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.
"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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I am shocked how this movie can have the horrible rate of 4.5 here in
IMDb. The movie is so damm cool! I first watched when I was a kid, but
even now that I am 20 years old, I considered it to be awesome!
I like the actors(Joan Cusack,Robin Williams,Jamie Foxx,LL Cool J), I like the visual effects,I like the cinematography, I enjoy the plot theme and so on! Even a futuristic theme that can become a reality in the future, with children playing games, that are in fact military vehicles ready to kill, is present in this movie.
Plot: When Kenneth Zevo, the owner of large toy company, dies,the company is willed to Zevo's ruthless brother Leland, a Lieutenant General, rather than his son Leslie or his daughter Alsatia. Kenneth Zevo was a pacifistic who believed in the innocence of the toys, but when his brother Leland stays as the main head of the company, the ideals who once Kenneth had are changed, since Leland begins making violent toys in secret, toys that not only simulate violence but actually cause it. The worst is that Leland starts to employ children to participate of the combat simulations, that in fact are real combats. But Leslie and Alsatia are going to confront Leland, and a battle between the peace-loving toys and the killing machines are going to begin.
*** and a half/****
Toys comes very close to being perfect. First, it is the closest I have seen a director come to creating a Kubrick style of filmaking. However, the ending for this movie is terrible.
Toys is about a man named Leslie Zevo whose father's toy company is taken over by his uncle, General Leland Zevo. The General tries to change the toy line from wind-up toys and dolls to military equipment and is trying to create a toy army operated by little children on remote the control. The plot sounds far fetched but it works.
The beginning of this movie if flawless. The entire production design was definately Oscar worthy. Barry Levinson manages to create this incredible world. I actually did feel like I as watching a Stanley Kubrick film because of the camera and design. There's one chilling scene were Robin Williams is discussing some of the novelty items the company will produce and as he does it the walls of the room he is in slowly close in because the General needs more space to build his war toys. Out of all the films I've seen in the 90's this scene would rank as one of the most memorable amoung them.
The performances are good. Michael Gambon and Robin Williams are both strong (I think Robin Wright was mis-cast though). However, Joan Cusack gives one of the most incredible performances I've ever seen. She plays a very child like adult, almost retarded but doesn't quite cross the line. The risks she takes and her characterization are all brilliant. There is one momennt when she is at her father's funeral and she just talks about how the word "tinhorns" stays with her. It's so beautiful and pure.
Now, about the ending. There is a scene in the film where the General tries to kill a fly with a gun. The movie should have ended with him trying to shoot the fly, but then shooting himself. However, there is this whole cliche plotline about bad guys becoming good, there's a toy battle which goes against the thematic elements of the movie, and there's an unesecary love scene that ruins the Kubrickian mood. The ending actually reminded me of a movie called Baby Geniuses and anyone who has seen both movies (which I'm sure is unlikely) will agree with me.
Oh well, if you see Toys watch up to the scene with the General and the fly and then stop. If you do this, you will have one of the most enjoyable cinematic experiences of your life.
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.
As years go by , this will become a gem . I have heard that this is one of Robin Williams personal favourites , and while I admit it's easy to see what people don't like about this movie ( eccentricity , continual whimsy ) I agree it's his best film . In it you will see all his vast talents displayed in varying measures , and it's obvious there was a lot his own input during filming . The ultimate storyline of good versus evil plays out beautifully as the demented General ( marvelously portrayed by Michael Gambon ) wages war with robotical war toys against the more traditional products of the dream factory built by his recently deceased brother . A rare appearance by Donald O'Connor at the beginning adds to film's sense of purity and charm . The opening sequence is , in my opinion , one of the very best ever produced , with a staged musical and ballet depicting the initial innocence to introduce the characters and the child-like motives of the toymaker . LLCoolJ turns in a great , if muted , performance as the lunatic Gambon's militaristic son , and Joan Cusack is perfect as William's sibling foil . Watch for Robin's speech , spoofing many great real speeches , to his wind-up toys as they prepare to do battle against the evil war machines , it's clear he had much to do with it's cleverness and scripting . Sure , there are flaws here, but just ignore them , watch and be happy . I have found that the more times you view this film , the more little jewels of movie magic emerge from it . A lot of people didn't like this film when it came out, and there are a lot who still don't , but I believe they are lacking in whimsical imagination and patience , because both are needed to enjoy this cinematic masterpiece. Mjc
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