Carrying on with our perusal of the Joe Dante oeuvre: Small Soldiers (1998), prompted by an old Filmsack podcast.
The movie starts with a pair of toy scientists in pitching a new toy to their corporate overlord, Denis Leary. Leary wants them to make the soldier and alien action figures to be more violent and actiony, so they put military defective AI chips in them. It seemed like a good idea at the time.
Meanwhile, in an idyllic little town, Dick Miller lets a kid have a shipment of these toys for his parent's idyllic little educational toy store. The kid, Gregory Smith is a nice responsible 14-year old, with a history of burning things down. His dream girl Kirsten Dunst shows up and wants to buy one of the toys for her little brother. Then, the toys come alive and begin their rampage.
This has all the hallmarks of a Joe Dante film - the comic horror, the kids just turning adolescent and their problems with their parents, and of course, Dick Miller. In fact, this movie is pretty much Gremlins with toys (maybe a touch of the corporate tweaking of Gremlins II). And, you know, I liked it, maybe better than Gremlins. I thought it was funnier, and had just the right touch of social commentary - like educational toys that nobody likes. The voice work for the action figures is great too. And here's a big spoiler:
The soldiers were voiced by the cast of the original Dirty Dozen. The aliens by Spinal Tap.