Based on a popular children’s book [by Lynne Reid Banks], The Indian in the Cupboard never comes alive as a movie. Earnest and well-intentioned, the promising concept feels stretched to feature length.
For starters, virtually no groundwork is laid before nine-year-old Omri (Hal Scardino) receives for his birthday what turns out to be a magical cupboard that can bring his action figures to life. Though the cabinet works on more extravagant items, from RoboCop to Darth Vader, he becomes enamored of a three-inch-tall Indian named Little Bear (played by recording artist Litefoot, in his acting debut).
Omri shares the secret only with his friend Patrick (Rishi Bhat), who uses the device to animate his own toy figure, a surly Texas cowboy named Boone (David Keith). At first hostile toward Little Bear (cowboys and Indians, after all), Boone eventually warms to him.
Randy Edelman’s soundtrack swells to huge crescendos in even the smallest moments. Clearly, someone was working a bit too hard here to try to compensate for missing magic. Technically, Industrial Light & Magic’s effects cleverly capture the little-guy-in-big-room scenario.