Sunday, 14 August 2016

THE LEIGH SPENCE MOMENT: TOYS

4. "There's a madman at the factory, and it's no longer me."

14/08/2016



I had bought my DVD copy of the 1992 film "Toys" for one simple reason - I remember the film looked really good. Unfortunately, that is practically all people do remember about it. In fact, it is easier for me to post shots from it than talk about it.

"Toys" received Academy Award nominations for art direction and costume design, the former of which was by Ferdinando Scarfiotti - he had already won for "The Last Emperor," and had also worked on "Death in Venice" and the Al Pacino "Scarface" remake. The expensive, expansive sets were inspired by Rene Magritte, whose painting "The Son of Man" also inspired the film's poster, while Futurist, Dadaist and Modernist influences were mixed in to produce a very vibrant, immersive environment that you would want to visit.



However, a film is made to undertake certain obligations that an art gallery does not, and the sets in "Toys" remain the background to a story that is rather flimsy, almost an excuse to take you from one set, or gallery, to the next. The messages of "make believe, not war," against video games, and reclaiming innocence, are dealt with in no deeper fashion than merely saying that is what happens in the film.


I was also a bit confused as to who to root for at the beginning. Sir Michael Gambon's character, a man that takes over the running of a toy factory, but sees his opportunity to gain the glory he could not achieve in the military, is meant to be the antagonist, but he drives the story. Robin Williams, as his nephew, a character that is meant to be the hero, only starts to act on the story after nearly an hour, to fight to preserve his father's legacy. 


Establishing the villain long before the hero, and casting them a sympathetic figure first, feels like a misstep, and makes "Toys" take that much longer to establish its plot - anything a described as a comedy should not take nearly two hours to play out.


"Toys" nearly resulted in a Razzie award for Barry Levinson, who had previously directed "Rain Man." It wasn't received well critically, and lost money at the box office. There had been films that deliberately sought to emphasise spectacle over story, from Luc Besson's "Subway" to "Batman v Superman," but if a film is lacking in one area, especially story, the rest will fail. "Toys" has its moments, but it needs more than that.


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