Toy Soldiers

Five preppie misfits at a school for sons of the rich and influential outwit Colombian terrorists holding the campus hostage. It could have been harmless junk on the order of Taps, the 1981 film about a student takeover of a military academy that gave its greenhorn cast (Timothy Hutton, Sean Penn, Tom Cruise) a leg up on stardom. Instead, Toy Soldiers emerges as a violent and unactable example of the genre.

Sean Astin stars as Billy Tepper, the rebel ringleader at school. Until the Colombians came along, Billy and his pals Joey (Wil Wheaton), Snuffy (Keith Coogan), Ricardo (George Perez) and Hank (T.E. Russell) had to divert themselves by sneaking the furniture of the dithering headmaster (Denholm Elliott) onto the campus lawn. But now terrorist leader Luis Cali (Andrew Divoff) says he will kill one hostage every day until his drug-kingpin father is released from prison.

Screenwriter and first-time director Daniel Petrie Jr. pours on the carnage and crudity. But it would take a defter touch than Petrie's to mix fart jokes and phone-sex gags with the sight of bodies being riddled with bullets or dropped from choppers. Save your pity for the capable Louis Gossett Jr., saddled with the thankless role of the dean, a part that calls for him to watch in misty-eyed admiration while his twit students save the day.

From The Archives Issue 604: May 16, 1991