Toys is a 1992 fantasy comedy film directed by Barry Levinson and starring Robin Williams, Michael Gambon, Joan Cusack, Robin Wright, LL Cool J, and Jamie Foxx in his feature film debut. The film failed at the box office at the time of its release, despite its impressive cast and lavish filmmaking. Levinson was criticized for a lack of plot focus. The magnitude of perceived directorial failure was such that Levinson was consequently nominated for (but did not win) a Razzie Award for Worst Director. The film did, however, receive Oscar nominations for art direction (Ferdinando Scarfiotti, Linda DeScenna) and costume design. It was also entered into the 43rd Berlin International Film Festival.
René Magritte's art, particularly The Son of Man, is obvious in its influence on the set design, and in part the costume design, of the film. The poster for the film distributed to movie theaters features Robin Williams in a red bowler hat against a blue, cloud-lined background. Golconda is also featured during a sequence where Robin Williams and Joan Cusack's characters perform in a music video sequence rife with surreal imagery, much of it Magritte-inspired.
At the Zevo Toys factory in a lovely field of green, owner Kenneth Zevo (Donald O'Connor) is dying. He expresses to his assistant Owen Owens (Arthur Malet) that he wants control of the business to go to his brother, military man Lt. Gen. Leland Zevo (Michael Gambon). Leland Zevo himself is uncertain of his brother's wishes, instead pointing out that his nephew, Leslie Zevo (Robin Williams), would be a worthy successor as he has apprenticed at Zevo Toys his entire life. Kenneth Zevo states that although Leslie loves his work, he is also too immature to be a good business owner and deal with the corporate world.
After Kenneth dies, Leland takes over. At first he has no interest in anything at the factory until he hears of possible leaks and corporate espionage. Leland brings in his son Patrick (LL Cool J), a soldier and expert in covert military operations, to oversee security. He soon decides to make a series of war toys. This dismays Leslie as Zevo Toys has never made war toys as Kenneth did not like them.
After a confrontation with Leslie, Leland halts the development of the war toys. He asks Leslie for some space to work alone to develop some toys of his own and states he doesn't want Leslie to see them because they might not be good enough. In fact, Leland's plan is to manufacture military grade weapons in toy scale and sell them to the army. He attributes his failure to rise above the rank of three star General (his father never lets him forget that he was a four star General) to the fact that he never had the opportunity to participate in a large war, and it is now too expensive and run by computers rather than people. He hopes to make war more affordable in order to usher in a new era of conflict and cement his place in history.
After a disastrous meeting with the 'Washington Boys' who advise on the governments military policy, Leland becomes more unhinged and decides to move ahead with his plans independently. His continued demands for more space, rigid security and top-secret projects dismay the childlike Leslie, his innocent and childlike sister Alsatia (Joan Cusack), Owen, and a factory worker Leslie has developed a crush on named Gwen Tyler (Robin Wright), whom his father hired shortly before his death in the hope that they would be a good match and help Leslie face up to his adult responsibilities.
Leslie becomes more suspicious when Owen shows him children arriving at the factory and being ushered into the restricted area. He breaks into a research area and discovers the children playing realistic war video games in preparation for controlling Lelands micro-military vehicles. After setting off the alarm he runs through a door and falls into a well-like water tank where he sees and seems to be drowned by another toy of Leland's, the "Sea Swine" (an amphibious drone with more autonomy than the other toys). Unseen, Leslie survives and makes his way to Gwens house where he confides what he has witnessed. He and Gwen then make love, covertly observed by one of Leland's spy toys.
Patrick decides to go against his father after he discovers that his mother did not die of appendicitis but disappeared when his father sent her on a covert reconnaissance mission. After revealing his father's true plans, Patrick, Leslie, Alsatia, Gwen and Owen launch an attack on Leland's labs to shut down his war projects.
The increasingly demented General sees this as his greatest war opportunity and attempts to destroy them all. First he sends out weapons disguised as innocent looking toys, then he sends his miniature "Tommy Tanks" and "Hurly Whirly Helicopters", each armed with lethal weapons.
An intense battle takes place between Leland's toys and the original Zevo toys.
Leslie manages to escape the battle and makes his way to the Generals office, smashing through the window and destroying the military toys' control systems. He and Patrick then confront Leland, but suddenly Alsatia is attacked by the Sea Swine (that Leland had activated earlier to stop Leslie), revealing that she is a robot built by Kenneth as a play-mate for Leslie after his mother died. While they are seeing to Leslie's sister, Leland tries to make his escape, but the malfunctioning Sea Swine tracks him down and attacks him as well resulting in his defeat.
After the battle Leslie is made the new head of Zevo Toys, Alsatia is fixed, Gwen becomes Leslie's girlfriend, Leland is hospitalized next to his father and Patrick decides to move on to other missions. Before Patrick departs, he, his cousins and Gwen visit Kenneth's grave, ensuring that peace is restored to the toy factory.
As the end credits roll, Kenneth's grave marker, a large toy elephant floats over the lush green pasture.