Saturday, October 03, 2015

Toy Soldiers (1984)

Released the same year as RED DAWN, the second and last film written and directed by David Fisher (LIAR’S MOON) is part of a teensploitation subgenre involving ordinary kids fighting back against terrorists. NIGHTFORCE, OUT OF CONTROL, and — believe it or not — a second film titled TOY SOLDIERS, unrelated to this one, fall into this category.

This TOY SOLDIERS is barely remembered today, but is notable as the film debut of actor Tim Robbins (BOB ROBERTS). Producer E. Darrell Hallenbeck had a long but undistinguished Hollywood career as a script supervisor, assistant director, production manager, and occasional television director, most notably on THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E. Top-billed stars Jason Miller (THE EXORCIST) and Cleavon Little (BLAZING SADDLES) lead a cast of young unknowns that not only boasts Robbins, but also Terri Garber (soon to explode on television in NORTH AND SOUTH and DYNASTY) and Tracy Scoggins (THE COLBYS).

So these obnoxious college students are screwing around on a yacht in Central America, and one of them gets hurt. Some of the kids try to take him to a hospital, but are kidnapped by Latino terrorists. Sarge (Miller), the yacht captain and an ex-Marine, tries to find them, but manages only to get away with one, Amy (Garber), the daughter of the yacht’s rich owner (Roger Cudney, evil Hofrax in BARBARIAN QUEEN II).

The U.S. government refuses to pay the $3 million ransom or even negotiate with the terrorists, so Amy gets the bright idea of recruiting her pothead butler (Willard Pugh), the friends who didn’t get captured (including Robbins and Larry Poindexter), Sarge, and Sarge’s war buddy Buck (Little) for a privately funded rescue mission. Their training includes jogging on the beach, referencing THE A-TEAM, and beating the shit out of watermelons. There’s a dumb scene in which a random psycho jumps Amy on the beach for no reason, and she has to drown him in the ocean. I guess she’s ready!

Miller and Little give this New World release more effort than it’s probably worth. Fisher and co-writer Walter Fox make zero effort to make the story anything but a fantasy. The cartoon villains have no personalities other than the basest lust and cruelty, and the kids reach their objective by freefalling 8,500 feet from an airplane. TOY SOLDIERS is dumb, which can be entertaining, but also dull, which never is. When their college classmates show up weeks later to rescue them, the hostages don’t seem the least bit surprised to see them, which is not even the hardest part of this movie to swallow. Some way cool explosions, though.

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