12/17/16

TOYS - REVIEW


Robin Williams stars in this surreal comedy from 1992 directed by Barry Levinson in which a toy factory is handed over to a sadistic army General who uses its resources to create war toys.

A box-office flop, Toys famously did not exactly wow critics and audiences alike even if it did receive some praise for its creative visuals. Indeed, the René Magritte-inspired art direction and costumes earned the film some Oscar nominations but little else about it managed to charm anyone. The main complaint being that, while Toys is rich in fancy sets, it is weak in terms of story and character and with a running time of over two hours that's a legitimate concern. On paper, this is a simple, straight-forward story and yet in Levinson's hands it's borderline incomprehensible. Every scene aims to entertain by showing you increasingly whimsical stuff but it all falls flat due to a lifeless, unfunny script and some criminally underwritten characters. Tonally, the film is also off as it's arty and beautiful but also loud and obnoxious, all of which essentially cancels itself out to create a film that's admittedly pretty but thoroughly uncompelling.

Along with the inventive visuals, there's a terrific cast that tries its damnedest to keep you entertained throughout Toys. You've got Michael Gambon at his most manic as the villainous Lt. Gen. Leland Zevo, a particularly bizarre Joan Cusack, Robin Wright, LL Cool J and the ever-lively Williams who pulls every trick in the book to bring some laughs to the table but in vain. Also look out for Jamie Foxx in a smaller role. The film does have its fun moments like when Williams and Cusack stage an improvised MTV music video as a distraction or when a room closes in on itself as people are seriously judging novelty fake vomit. But it's all eye-candy which doesn't move the plot forward or develops the characters in the slightest and the final act is an interminable mess. So many scenes in this film could have easily been reduced by half or cut entirely, which would have brought Toys down to a more palatable running time because, as it stands, this suffers from far too many longueurs.

As clever and appealing as the production design may be and as hard as the talented cast tries, Toys is just not a well told story. With the right script, this could have been a fantasy full of wonder to rival Willy Wonka's Chocolate Factory but it sadly can't quite rise above its shortcomings.

Pretty vacant.

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