Words: Saam Das
The passing of Robin Williams earlier this year shocked the world - he was the most searched trend on Google in 2014, above Ebola and the World Cup, a testament to the quality of his work. One of his final films, 'Night At The Museum: Secret Of The Tomb' is in UK cinemas this week but we'll instead reflect on one of his earlier, and most underrated works, Barry Levinson's imaginative 1992 film 'Toys'.
Williams stars as the childlike eccentric son of toy company owner, battling against his war-mongering Army uncle (Michael Gambon) for control of the family business. Gambon's Leland seeks to create war toys, something that Williams' Leslie is strongly against. Leland begins to enact his plan to create such toys, discovered soon by Leslie who takes to the battleground in a bid to stop his increasingly deranged uncle.
'Toys' was a divisive, quirky offering - garnering a Razzie nomination for Worst Director, but also two Academy Award nods for Art Direction and Costume Design. The visual ambition was heavily influenced by Belgian surrealist René Magritte, eventually culminated in a thoroughly engaging music video skit. The storyline may not have matched the film's visual excellence but there remains a vitality throughout, not only from the sparkling production design but also performances such as Joan Cusack's oddball turn as Leslie's sister.
The film's musical qualities were something more on par with its visuals, led by the joyous Wendy & Lisa track 'The Closing Of The Year'. Written by the film's soundtrack composers Hans Zimmer and Trevor Horn, who have both cemented their reputations in music in the following 20+ years, 'The Closing Of The Year' ties in particularly well with the Christmas theme - one of the finest Christmas songs for a considerably underrated Christmas film.
'Toys' will be showing on Channel 4 at 3.20am tonight.