Release Date: April 26, 1991
Starring: Sean Astin, Louis Gusset Jr.,
Denholm Elliott, Wil Wheaton,
Keith Coogan, & Andrew Divoff
Audience: Older teens and up
Runtime: 112 minutes
Distributor: Tri-Star Pictures
Director: Daniel Petrie Jr.
Producer: Jack E. Freedman, Wayne
Williams & Patricia Herskovic
Writer: Daniel Petrie Jr. & David
Address Comments To:David Matalon
1875 Century Park East
Los Angeles, CA 90067
(213) 201 2300.
A violent opening sets the stage to show that Luis Cali, the son of a South American narcotics trafficker, will stop at nothing to win the release of his extradited father. To take precautions and protect the federal judge presiding in the case, U.S. marshalls whisk his boy away from The Regis School, more commonly known and spray painted as The Rejects School, a place for teenage boys no other preparatory school will take due to their problems with authority.
Folly seems to be particularly bound up in one under-achiever, Billy Tepper, but no-nonsense Dean Parker (played unflinchingly by Louis Gusset, Jr.) matches wits with Billy and vows to drive the prep school pranks far from him. He doesn't get the chance because the school is suddenly overrun by Cali's commando-terrorists.
Not finding whom they want, Cali takes the entire student body hostage, wires the school to explode at the touch of his wrist-radio button, then orders a head-count every hour for anyone thinking of leaving. Cali begins talks with FBI forces who surround the perimeter, but they refuse to give in to the terrorist demands.
Billy, a natural leader, puts his talents for pulling pranks to good use. Leading the other boys, he devises a plan to thwart the terrorists that involves gathering vital information on Cali's guards, artillery and personnel, and passing it on to the outside forces. Billy slips away successfully, but barely gets back in time for the headcount.
Making for a big suspense-filled, entertaining and satisfying payoff are the boys' split-second timed diversions and distractions, the signals they arrange among themselves, and their resourcefulness in making use of every nook, cranny and air duct on the grounds. The emphasis is overwhelmingly on sticking together, worked out through a premise that says the rebel will arise to the occasion and become a leader and/or hero, if allowed. Whether it actually works out this way in real life is a different matter altogether.
At any rate, TOY SOLDIERS at least uses Dean Parker, whom Billy admits he can't fake out, to demonstrate Proverbs 22:15. "Folly is bound up in the heart of a child, but the rod of discipline will drive it far from him." Despite Billy's heroic actions, Dean Parker promises to put him back on pots and pans at film's end.
Unfortunately, many of the scenes that establish the boys' devilishness deal with patently offensive subjects like telephone pornography, underage drinking and filthy, obscene joking, made worse by their presentation as the normal things that children do when growing up. The brutal slayings, though, are by far the worst element, capturing in graphic, gory detail a bullet to the brain, or a body hurled from a window.