Legendary TV news anchor Walter Cronkite takes ecstatic Disneyland tourist Robin through the process of Disney's hand drawn animation and makes Robin's wish of visiting the animated world of Peter Pan (1953) come true.
Eccentric toymaker Kenneth Zevo (Donald O'Connor) last wish is that his brother, Leland (Sir Michael Gambon), takes over the running of the business. Leland is out of touch with toymaking and reality too. The business should really have been given to his nephew, Leslie (Robin Williams), who was much more like Kenneth. When Leland starts making weapons instead of toys, Leslie decides to take action.Written by
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Visually, it's a delight. Cinematically, it's a disaster.
I'll be nice to "Toys." It's a disaster. It will rightfully be remembered as one of the most atrocious cinematic disasters of our time. And yet it shouldn't be--it is directed by Barry Levinson ("Good Morning, Vietnam," "Rainman"), stars Robin Williams, Robin Wright, Joan Cusack, and was Levinson's dream project not touched by any studio until his first few films were hits.
The direction is muddled, the tone goofy and the elements child-like. It plays like a family film but it isn't--its PG-13 rating is evidence of that. It's about toys and war--and if you think that sounds a bit silly, you're right. It's a bit distressing to hear this was Levinson's dream project--what in the world would make him want to make this piece of garbage?
It opens with a man on his deathbed named Kenneth Zevo (Donald O'Connor). Zevo owns a prosperous toy company that manufactures millions of children-friendly toys. Aware of his close fatality, he decides to hand over his company to The General (Michael Gambon), a military extremist. After his death, The General does, indeed, take over the company, and he starts to manufacture military games to pollute children's minds.
Zevo also had a son and a daughter, Leslie (Robin Williams) and Alsatia (Joan Cusack), the latter of whom is very quacky and not so bright. Leslie, on the other hand, is just a bit too eccentric to own a toy company. But he has morals--when he hears of his brother's new military toys, he is maddened and tries to take back his father's company and restore it to its original state.
The cast also includes LL Cool J as The General's son, who is a camoflauge extraordinare. He is the muscle man and bodyguard of the movie. But he doesn't carry the same unspoken intimidation that Oddjob did in "Goldfinger," a movie of much greater quality.
"Toys" seems inspired, to a point, but it doesn't go anywhere. The overall tone of the film is just wrong--have you ever seen "Streetfighter" with Jean-Claude Van Damme? Yeah, it feels like that--awkward, childish and downright stupid. Of course, it is an alternate universe of toys we're talking about, but something still doesn't click--they can make the movie bright, looney and original without resorting to "Streetfighter" ineptness.
Robin Williams seems at home as an odd toy maker. Joan Cusack has always been a bit odd--she fits here. Robin Wright (Penn), as the love interest of the film, is not needed but we all know that every story needs a love interest. And Barry Levinson is a terrific director, who has made more than a handful of good, quality films. Which is why "Toys" is simply unacceptable.
Barry Levinson directed better with "Rainman," Robin Williams was more lovable as an eccentric, good-natured man in "Jumanji" (1995), Joan Cusack was funnier in "My Blue Heaven" (1990), and Robin Wright (Penn) was a great deal better in "The Princess Bride" (1987) and a little movie with Tom Hanks about a guy named Gump. ("Forrest Gump," 1994.) Any way you slice and dice it, "Toys" is in a league of its own as one of the biggest disappointments in the history of filmmaking. Visually, it's a delight. Cinematically, it's a disaster.
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