Oct 7, 2011

[Movies] Toy Soldiers (1991)

Toy Soldiers (1991)After my partner posted this feature on his queer blog, I knew that we were going to have to revisit this particular movie soon. Not that I have a particular urge to see actors posing as high school kids in their underwear (which didn't hurt either), but of course I was curious to go back to the movie.

Admittedly, I have vague memories of having seen this movie before - and when we did sit down to re-watch it various snippets started to trigger long-forgotten memories. I'm not saying that I was a total fan of the movie (else I would have remembered things of course), but it was certainly a movie that had its appeal.

Translated to its modern equivalent, I suppose you could consider this to be one of those pseudo-serious movies using younger stars as the front line actors (sort of like, I dunno, Abduction or something?), although I don't see how some of these guys could be considered as teen idols apart from the lead, Sean Astin.

I mean hey, obviously my partner likes him, so that has to count for something, right?

Toy Soldiers is a 1991 action movie with dramatic bits in it as well. It was directed by Daniel Petrie, Jr. The screenplay was roughly based on a William P. Kennedy novel of the same name.

We start in Colombia and a terrorist leader named Luis Cali (Andrew Divoff) who is holding the Palace of Justice hostage. His demands are simple - the release of his father, the drug kingpin Enrique Cali (Jesse Doran). However he finds out that his father has already been extradited to the United States, thus they're left to make their way past the border to somehow retrieve his father.

This brings us to Regis High School - an exclusive all-boys prep school for the wealthy and influential. The school is terrorized by a group of pranksters known as the Rejects, given they had been expelled from other schools a number of times. But since one of their own - Phil Donoghue (Knowl Johnson) - happens to be the son of the Federal judge presiding over Cali's case, this brings the terrorists to their school.

The actor Sean Astin giving a talk at the Univ...Image via WikipediaWhile Donoghue had been evacuated before the invasion, the rest of the school together with the Rejects find themselves being held hostage by the terrorists. And somehow the Rebels - Billy Tepper (Sean Astin), Joey Trotta (Wil Wheaton), Snuffy Bradberry (Keith Coogan), Ricky Montoya (George Perez), Hank Giles (T.E. Russell) and Yogurt Case (Shawn Phelan) - take it upon themselves to try and save the school from the terrorists.

Okay, the movie's plot wasn't the most brilliant one. I mean seriously - does this terrorist know of no other strategies than holding people hostage? Yes, it starts with the Palace of Justice and that sorta worked. But them somehow he gets across the border with high-powered machine guns and rocket launchers all just to hold another group of people hostage? With that kind of firepower, you'd think they would have tried to storm the federal prison or even hold a government official hostage. But no, the go for his son, who we don't see for the rest of the movie.

And why would a group of misfits be the perfect team to take on the terrorists? Is it because they're already headstrong and reckless? Is it because they've demonstrated how fearless they are given all the pranks that they pull? Or is it because they can't all shirts and pants to bed at the same time, this their mis-matched flashing meetings? Who know, right?

Beyond the silly plot, I can sort of understand how this movie developed a sort of cult following over the years. It does feature the kids suddenly doing amazingly logical things like trying to account for all the terrorists, provide beautifully accurate sketches to the authorities and even come up with a plan to disarm the bombs around the school. I think I would have bought the premise a bit more had a few of them been sons of top CIA agents or military assets somehow. But that wasn't the case.

The one guy you'd sort of expect to be all macho and military like would probably be Louis Gossett, Jr., who played Dean Edward Parker. But he didn't get into any of the action in the movie other than to get shot once!

Toy Soldiers is a movie that's practically campy in its efforts to take itself seriously. It's fun to see how the "kids" do come up with a feasible plan to liberate the school and of course it all has to come together perfectly. Yay Rejects, yes? The movie manages to sneak through with 2.5 ridiculous attempts by the Rejects to look like they're not up to something out of a possible 5.

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