Director: Barry Levinson
Cast: Robin Williams, Joan Cusack, Michael Gambon, Robin Wright, LL Cool J
Released: December 18, 1992
Best Art Decoration-Set Decoration (lost to Howards End)
Best Costume Design (lost to Dracula)
I said I would have another holiday movie review for you and I have delivered on my promise. Well, sort of. While Toys begins and ends with a Christmas song called The Closing of the Year (a song that I love, love, love and is probably one of the only good things about the movie!), the rest of it really has nothing to do with Christmas. It's been at least a decade since I've seen it, so please forgive my memory. You would think a movie that came out in December and has TOYS in the title would have something to do with Christmas! So I'm glad I at least gave you a true Christmas movie review with the remake of Miracle on 34th Street. Next year I will just have to make it up by doing THREE Christmas movies!
I really don't know how to describe this movie. It is a flustercluck, for one thing! I feel like I am doing disservice to the late Robin Williams by this being his first movie I reviewed since his passing. I will have to make that up by watching and reviewing one of his better movies in the future. This one is just weird with plenty of moments where you might go, WTF?
Williams plays Leslie Zevo and Joan Cusack plays his sister, Alstatia (I'm still not sure how you pronounce that!) Their father, owner of Zevo Toys, a company that manufactures and sells toys, dies and his brother (Michael Gambon) takes it over. Why his brother, a stern, no-nonsense general, is the beneficiary of the toy company and his fun-loving and child-like son is not is because he doesn't think Leslie could be a successful leader.
Mr. Zevo must have made a fortune selling his cheap toys because his children live in a house that pops out from a story book (and there's even a dollhouse replica in the living room) and they have their own butlers, maids, and Leslie drives a Cadillac. Mr. Zevo even has his own wind-up (life size) ambulance to take him to the hospital for God's sake. I have no idea how he made such a fortune selling such crappy-looking toys, but it apparently worked so well that he was able to afford tons of workers who just sing and dance to a song called "The Happy Worker" (sung by Tori Amos) while they wait for large, colorful machines to spit out toy parts so they can assemble them. He can even afford to pay some guy whose job it is to hold a "Ducks Crossing" sign so people stop to let TOY duckling cross the street, I am not kidding you. The movie never states when it takes place. I was thinking maybe it was the '50s because most of the toys are those plastic wind-up toys of yore, but MTV and video games are also featured so therefore that makes it in the "present" day...or at least in the '80s as I was listening to a podcast (How Did This Get Made?....I highly recommend listening to this one, it's from September 2013) and they mentioned it took Barry Levinson ten years to write it!
Another way they waste money (but still seem to have overloads of it!) is that they make a lot of joke toys (large attachable ears, fake vomit, hand buzzers, smoking jackets (those are jackets that literally smoke), etc...) and they pay people to research them. There is a really long scene where Leslie and the others are wearing white lab coats while going over different kinds of fake vomit and they are taking it seriously! Now the joke is that while they are discussing vomit, the room they are in is getting smaller because the General needs more room for a project he is working on. I don't understand the appeal of any of the toys that are created at this place. I can't see any kids wanting to play with them. The only visual appeal to the movie is the house they live in and the rolling green hills where they live. (Which I thought was filmed in England, but that was actually filmed in Rosalia, Washington.)
Levinson must have had his heart set on very particular actors because this family doesn't make any sense at all. The General has a British accent, but everyone else is his family is American. They do sort of address this by him blaming his father for raising him in Britain and that's why he sounds different from everyone else. His (now deceased) wife was a Jane Fonda lookalike and yet they have a son named Patrick who looks like LL Cool J.... I'm guessing he was adopted? And then there's Alstatia who is just an odd character. She eats sandwiches with vitamins or applesauce (ugh!) only between the two slices of bread. Patrick makes a comment that she always looks the same age whenever he sees her. We later find out (spoiler alert!) that Alstatia is a robot that Leslie's dad had built for him because his mother died when he was young and he wanted to make sure Leslie had somebody to take care of him. So many questions! Why did Leslie's father make his son a grown up sister? (Remember, Patrick commented how she never ages, so it wasn't like Mr. Zevo built a robot every year to grow up with Leslie). And why is he selling all these crappy, cheap toys when he can make robots that look like real human beings? Just think how much richer he could have been...and he made a fortune selling crappy toys and paying his employees to pretty much do nothing!
The General wants to make war toys and video games to train kids for war in the future...IDK...it's so weird. And then there's a toy war with the General's toys against the Zevo Toys. It is the stupidest thing! There was a funny line where Leslie says, "Let's fight fire with marshmallows!" because all the General's toys come equipped with guns while you just wind up the Zevo Toys. He does give an amusing speech to his "troop" of toys where he begins with, "Four stores and many Christmases ago..." the speech has some clever dialogue, but it goes on way too long. And another question concerning Alstatia, why didn't they use her in the toy war since she is a freaking robot and can just be rebuilt. I guess since we find this out AFTER the toy war (I cannot believe I just wrote that!) ended, they didn't want to ruin the surprise for the viewer.
While this movie is called TOYS, it is not for children! Not just because some innocent toys become victim in the toy war, but because Robin Wright plays Leslie's love interest (she was hired by his father the day before he died because he wanted them to get together, which is really creepy if you think about it) and there is a really awkward scene between them where you can't see it, but you can hear it because the General has his men spying on them and her bra is covering the small robot that is their eyes. And they have one conversation and are pretty much in love the next scene, it is so ridiculous and stupid!
This entire movie is ridiculous and stupid! The only good thing about it is the "Closing of the Year" song. And that's the only Christmas thing related to it!