Action Man-type figures fitted with deadly microprocessors go on menacing manoeuvres in this Gremlins-meets-Toy Story war fantasy from director Joe Dante, which takes a long time setting up its simple premise but is worth the wait.
When an overeager toy designer installs state-of-the-art military microchips into a line of action figures, the result is a battle royal between the testosterone-dripping soldiers of Commando Elite – led by Major Chip Hazard (voiced by Tommy Lee Jones) – and the peaceful mutant Gorgonites – led by Archer (voiced by Frank Langella).
The problem is that the battleground is the suburban household of young Alan Abernathy (Gregory Smith), the teen son of a small-town Ohio toy store owner.
The movie’s slick professionalism and technical brilliance keep the awkward mixture of mirth and mayhem from becoming too uncomfortable an experience.
Crafty nods to classic war films such as Patton (1970), the creepy Gwendy doll sequence and the GI Joes being voiced by the likes of Tommy Lee Jones, Ernest Borgnine and Bruce Dern also help maintain the interest for adults as well as youngsters.
Yet this mix of technology-run-amok and children’s nightmare sometimes takes belief a bridge too far.
Major Chip Hazard
Tommy Lee Jones
Sarah Michelle Gellar