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Toys was a surreal 1992 comedy directed, co-written, and co-produced by Barry Levinson. Supposedly it was the film he had always wanted to make, but the film was generally not well received by either critics or audiences; Levinson was given a Razzie nomination, while the film earned two technical Academy Award noms. It starred Robin Williams as Leslie Zevo, a man who gets passed up for the inheritance of the toy factory and company of his father Kenneth (Donald O'Connor) despite his dedication because he has never really grown up himself. Instead Kenneth leaves the factory to his brother General Leland (Michael Gambon). This turns out to be a bad move, since the general and his camouflage-obsessed son Patrick (LL Cool J) soon bring martial law to the factory and even start planning to use toys as secret war machines.


Tropes employed:

  • Berserk Button: "One word about that boy [Patrick]'s mother..."
  • Canis Latinicus: "'Buffoon'. Interesting word. I've always wondered what the etymology is. Maybe it's from the Latin, buffunatus: 'he who carries the pickle'."
  • Chameleon Camouflage: Played for laughs. Patrick is usually introduced to a scene dressed exactly like some part of the scenery.
  • Character Development. Especially with Leslie.
  • Cloudcuckoolander: Leslie and Alsatia. They got it from their dad.
  • Cowardly Lion: Leslie.
  • Crazy Prepared: Patrick.
    • Kenneth too, all things considered.
  • Cut Lex Luthor a Check: Even after his plan fell apart, General Leland could have made a fortune just selling his way-ahead-of-the-time video games. Seriously, the things incorporated no-glasses 3d in the early 90s. If you took off the real weapons, his "war toys" were pretty kick-ass as real toys as well.
  • Cutting the Knot: Leslie and company duck into a room to evade the Tommy Tanks, who proceed to blow the door open with tiny rockets.
    • The Tommy Tanks try to break into the warehouse where Leslie and company are hiding. After a few bashes on the door, they decide to blow up the wall next to it.
  • Dark Reprise: After Leland takes over, "The Happy Worker" becomes "Workers".
  • Dungeon Bypass: Leslie using Santa's airplane to get to the General's office.
  • Fluffy the Terrible: General Zevo's creations include Ball, Dolly, Tommy Tanks, and Hurly-Burly Helicopters. Each one is quite capable of lethal action.
  • Foreshadowing: "Well, whatever you're doing must be working, because you always seem the same age to me."
    • "Whose side are you on, anyway?"
  • The Fun in Funeral: Kenneth manages a posthumous prank that gives everyone at his funeral a much-needed laugh.
  • General Ripper: Leland is intent on turning a toy factory into a weapons factory and military training center.
  • Genre Busting
  • Getting Crap Past the Radar: In Vietnam, one of General Zevo's men tried to frag him. That's frag, frag!
  • Hammerspace: Apparently where Leslie pulls the devil puppet out of so quickly. Hey, he's good.
  • Heel Face Turn: Patrick Zevo.
  • Hot Nurse: Nurse Debbie, Granddad's caretaker -- who's sleeping with Patrick and his father.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: General Zevo, twice: First one of his own helicopters destroys the central computer, shutting down most of his weapons. Then comes the Sea Swine...
  • Hurricane of Puns: Many from Leslie.
  • Ice Cream Koan: "Treat your friends like your enemies and your enemies like your friends."
    • Leslie's motto? "Treat your friends like your friends and your enemies like your enemies."
  • Inane Blabbering: The father of the two Zevo brothers, who was a military man like one of his sons. Most of his dialogue is so incoherent as to be Lost in Transmission, yet General Zevo understands him surprisingly well.
  • Insult Backfire: When General Zevo tells Leslie, "You're as big a fool as your father ever was!" Leslie gets a touched look and says, "Really?...You think so?...Thanks!"
  • Is That What They're Calling It Now?: "If I convince the general to stop making war toys, will you let me take off your training wheels?"
  • The Jeeves: Kenneth's personal assistant, Owen Owens (Arthur Malet), gives off the appearance of being a doddering old man, while being savvy enough to contribute to Leslie's plans to get the factory back.
  • Kick the Dog: When playing an arcade game, Leland is annoyed that UN trucks keep getting in his line of fire, and eventually just stops caring and destroys them on sight, despite the game penalizing him for it.
    • The general later has his own line of games commissioned that rewards players (all young children) for civilian casualties.
  • Killer Rabbit: The first "toys" that the heroes encounter during the break-in.
  • My Little Panzer: The film focused on the new owner of a toy factory switching production to toy tanks and helicopters armed with real weapons he meant to sell to the military. He also starts a videogame division to get kids into violence in order to have future soldiers that are used to the piloting system he plans to use for those toys.
  • Nostalgia Filter: "There isn't going to be another war--not like you and I know it! War has changed!"
  • Not Even Bothering with the Accent: Leland Zevo sports Michael Gambon's British accent, despite the rest of the family being as American as apple pie. This is Handwaved in an early scene: it turns out Granddad was stationed in England (with NATO, perhaps) during Leland's formative years, and now Leland can't shake it off; he scornfully demonstrates his inability to fake an American accent: "See why they didn't buy it?"
  • Paper-Thin Disguise: Leslie and Alsatia as Steve and Yolanda.
  • Punch Clock Villain: The Mooks aren't necessarily so bad, just following orders.
  • Punctuated Pounding: "I! WILL! NOT! LET! YOU! DESTROY! DAD'S! DREAM!" Also a case of Punctuated for Emphasis.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: One of the most nicely and gently put in film history.

 Alsatia: You know, you remind me a lot of my brother.

Patrick: That's impossible. We're exact opposites.

Alsatia: That's what I mean. He's all silly and soft on the outside and on the inside he's really strong, and you're just the opposite.

  • Robot Girl: Part of a reveal later on in the movie.
  • Rose-Haired Girl: Invoked by Alsatia by wearing a pink plastic wig during the cafeteria scene.
  • Rule of Symbolism: The climactic battle is between an army of robotic, military drones and a warehouse of traditional toys. It amounts to a prolonged sequence of slow motion teddy bear explosions to a background of Enya. It's meant to symbolize the destruction of innocence, that war corrupts everything it touches. Levinson has said that he thinks of the film as being about not allowing your childhood "thoughts" (i.e. innocence) to disappear in adulthood.
  • Scenery Porn: Of a most surreal sort.
  • Shout-Out: Literally, by General Leland: "KLAATU BARADA NIKTO!!!"
    • Doubles as a Stealth Pun: There's a literal War Pig.
    • The film contains several references to the work of surrealist painter Rene Magritte; at one point, Leslie and Alsatia dress up in bright-red versions of the famous trenchcoat and bowler hat that Magritte stuck on many of his subjects.
  • Stealth Hi Bye: A specialty of Patrick, who practices every chance he gets.
  • Take That: More than one instance, the funniest being when Leslie and some other factory workers are watching a film of a pair of giant gag ears being tested on the unsuspecting populace:

 "I don't know, do you think we're making fun of people with big ears?"

"I think we're making fun of people with small heads."

"Well, either way we're going to get letters from the Royal Family. Not good."

  • The Unintelligible: Grandpa.
  • Victory Is Boring: Part of General Zevo's motivation.
  • Villainous Breakdown: Leland completely loses his mind when his proposal for a drone army is rejected by Washington.
    • The military leaders he proposed it to were agreeing with his plan (the Russians were starting their own spy drone project) until one of them unwittingly pushed one of Leland's Berserk Buttons and he snapped.
  • Wallpaper Camouflage: Patrick does this several times, but is also well-versed in the idea of misdirection as camouflage.
  • The Walls Are Closing In: There's a non-lethal parody where Robin Williams's character and others find themselves in a room that keeps getting smaller as square sections of wall close in one at a time; the walls come right up to the sides of the conference table and stop, by which time everyone is crouched on top of the table. It's meant to convey that General Leland is expanding other areas of the toy factory for his own nefarious purposes.

 Leslie: We're being attacked by a crossword puzzle.

 Granddad Zevo (in a rare moment of coherency): So change sides.

Leland: I can't change sides, you silly old fart! There's no side to change sides to!

  • The Wonka: Robin Williams tries too hard to be this in the film. Ironically, Alsatia is a better Wonka than Leslie.
  • Xanatos Gambit / Batman Gambit: Leslie's father intentionally gave Leland the toy business to wake Leslie up and make him more serious about running things. He even handpicked Leslie's future wife, with neither she nor Leslie knowing.
  • Zerg Rush: The thinking behind arming toy vehicles. For the cost of one stealth bomber, General Leland can give you a million weapons platforms undetectable by radar.
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