Toys is one of the more fascinating and frustrating movies you can watch. On a surface level, you might find it as entertaining (or as boring) as any other children's movie (a hero, his girl, a villian, etc., are all standard inclusions here). But you might come away with some existential understanding about life if you look deeper.

The owner of a toy factory (Zevo Toys) dies and hands over the ownership of the company to his Hitlerian brother. On his deathbed, he hopes that his manic son Leslie (Robin Williams) will eventually learn the ropes and take over. Leslie's cousin (played by LL Cool J) is in charge of the turning the innocent toy factory into a a paranoid weapon-making machine (very reminscent of what power-hungry politicians do to countries).

The brainchild of Leslie's uncle is to wage a war with remote-controlled toys. And here we come to our first lesson: in a Freudian sense, toys, and how we play with them, are a representation of our natures---we can either choose to be constructive or destructive and the selection of our toys emphasises this. Toys change over your life time. As a child you might prefer a toy that just runs around and is pretty simple. As an adult, you might prefer toys that simulate simple and basic real-life experiences (like the virtual reality toy that Leslie develops), or you might prefer toys that wage wars (like the video game that can actually result in destruction of real cities developed by Leslie's uncle), or toys that are just companions (guess who?). The analogy to the real world is clear not only in the way toys are used as pawns by both parties, but the way in which they are used, and the nature of the toys (we all have our toys). The final piece of symbolism in the movie is when after the general has destroyed Leslie's toy army with his helicopters and robots, a toy couple is still dancing round and round. The contradictory nature of a sinister reality with innocent toys are what make it frustrating (especially in the opening scene where a beanie with a flashing red light is indicative of a heart failure in Leslie's dad).

But the characters (except for Leslie's sister Alsatia, played by Joan Cusack) are weak and so is the acting for the most part. Williams is shadowed by the spectacular visual effects: the computer animation, the skeletons conferencing, and most of all, the toys themselves! LL Cool J and Joan Cusack give some of the better performances, especially when LL Cool J does his appearing and disappearing act. Worth watching purely for the visual effects alone. Did I mention the soundtrack is also excellent, including people like Enya, Tori Amos and Thomas Dolby (who fits right in)?

"And the toys go winding down." ---Primus.

Movie ram-blings || Ram Samudrala ||