A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
This movie satirizes the military industrial complex, violent toys, and the pernicious influence of multinational corporations.
Positive Role Models
Characters too one-dimensional to be seen as positive role models.
Violence & Scariness
Living toys are chewed up in a disposal and otherwise tortured. They use power tools and explosives to attack humans. Some peril: A boy risks falling to his death or dying from electrocution while on top of a pole with a power generator. Toys arm themselves with nail guns, staple guns, and various explosives and set fire to tennis balls shot from a tennis ball server.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Flirtation and a passionate kiss. The commando toys make sexist comments about the female Barbie-esque dolls they bring to life.
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Some profanity. "Crap," "damn," "hell," "ass," "sucks." A teen has a poster in his room of a band called REO Speed Dealer, and at the bottom of the poster is the word "honky."
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
A mom asks her son, "Are you on crank?" and then proceeds to ask if he's on other drugs. Parents drink from a glass of gin and tonic that is drugged with sleeping pills. A teen boy has a poster in his room of a band called REO Speed Dealer.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Small Soldiers is a 1998 movie in which soldier toys powered by advanced military technology come to life and wreak havoc on anyone they consider to be their enemy. The "soldiers" of the title are ruthless killing machines in the bodies of dolls who attack everyone around them with every means at their disposal, which means taking common household objects and garage tools and converting them into weaponry, such as nail guns, pointed nail files, and flaming tennis balls. There is some peril: Teens and an older man are tied up by the toys; one is held hostage; and a boy hanging from an electrical pole could either fall to his death or die of electrocution. Profanity includes "crap," "damn," "hell," "ass," and "sucks." The commando toys make sexist comments about the female Barbie-esque dolls they bring to life. The overall themes, satirizing the military-industrial complex, violent war-themed toys, and the negative influence of multinational corporations, make this best for tweens and teens capable of understanding the topics being satirized. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
SMALL SOLDIERS is suspenseful and exciting, but this movie contains a level of violence that would earn it an R rating if most of the victims weren't toys. The lengthy climactic battle will have boys in the target age group cheering, while the topical humor (the send-up of Barbies is wicked) and allusions to other movies will keep older teens and adults interested. The special effects are amazing and integrated seamlessly with the live actors and sets. Best of all, the vocal casting is inspired; the commandos are voiced by Tommy Lee Jones and members of the original cast of The Dirty Dozen, while the Gorgonites are given life by Frank Langella and members of Spinal Tap.
But director Joe Dante's trademark dark comedy is overwhelmed by special effects and mean-spiritedness. More troublesome than the violence is the inhumanity and sheer hatefulness of the commandos. It's scary to think that children might identify with these muscle-bound, conscience-free murderers whose slogan is "no mercy." Worse, they may imitate the soldiers by fashioning weapons out of ordinary household items.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.