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20th Anniversary Re-appraisal: Small Soldiers

When Director Joe Dante debuted Small Soldiers 20 years ago this week, it was derided as a too violent for kids Gremlins knock-off, and it is indeed those things, partially. But while this film was marketed to kids by the idiot profit-hamsters who make those decisions, and indeed I first saw it while babysitting a trio of neighbor boys who loved the movie, this is not a kiddie movie: it's a violent PG-13 satire of American cultural violence, and it was bound to be generally misunderstood by American culture.

And it should not be viewed alone, as critic Jonathan Rosenbaum understood at the time, Spielberg mentee Joe Dante's Small Soldiers is to Saving Private Ryan (released two weeks later), as his Pirannawas to Jaws. Spielberg, in fact, was an early fan of Dante after Piranna, and like a wise, tricky deity, understands that his films deserve satiric critique for their impact on the culture - and it's perhaps no accident that Spielberg's Amblin Entertainment produced a…

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