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USA 1992
Directed by
Barry Levinson
121 minutes
Rated PG

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
4 stars


Willy Wonka meets Dr Strangelove in Teletubbie Land sort of describes this wonderfully over-the-top fantasy about a toy-maker Leslie Zevo (Robin Williams) who must save his father's dream after he bequeaths it to his war-mongering brother, Leland (Michael Gambon), who converts it in a R&D plant for miniature weaponry. Leslie is helped by his ditzy sister, Alsatia (Joan Cusack) and a new employee (Robin Wright),

Generally the film, which Levinson also produced and co-wrote, was poorly received in its day, appearing too simplistic and contrived for an adult audience, too sophisticated for children and did not do well critically or commercially, as is so often the case with off-beat films with mainstream credentials as this one has. Although it does tend in places to be a tad over-stated, particularly the climactic battle sequence, its marvellous and very expensive art direction is a delight and anyone who loves Willy Wonka or The Wizard Of Oz should find much to enjoy in the film with its visual inventiveness (including a Magritte-inspired video clip and a Theo Van Doesburg canteen) and good-hearted message (it's a safe bet that John "Toy Story" Lasseter has seen it more than once).

I am no fan of Robin Williams as an actor but at least this candy-coloured environment is more appropriate to him than a naturalistic one and he gets the opportunity to make use of his quick-fire comedic skills. Michael Gambon is excellent as the disturbed uncle, Joan Cusack does a wonderful job as Alsatia and Robin Wright is perfectly perfect as Leslie's love interest. Toys is a criminally under-rated film.




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