Ten-year-old Billy, who lives with his widowed mother in a run-down Los Angeles neighborhood, cannot make the right social connections at school. A kindly toy-maker gives him a tin soldier. It metamorphoses overnight into Jon Voight, who gets Billy out of the gang and into the arms of the Right Girl. If this resounds somewhat on the yucky side, that’s what it is.
Billed as Voight’s directing debut, and aimed at a niche in the cable industry’s weeklong “Voices Against Violence” campaign (March 19-25), the film challenges credulity on many fronts. The notion of a tin soldier turning into a flesh-and-blood battler for moral standards makes more sense than most other aspects of Patrick J. Clifton’s meandering script — with the Hans Christian Andersen story, listed as its inspiration, casting a dim and flickering light in the far background.
The real inspiration seems to be the world of the soap stereotype, where heroic, hard-working Mom (Ally Sheedy) ultimately finds the pop-psych words to confess her hostility toward her son, and where angelic, dreamy-eyed Billy (Trenton Knight) breaks off a gang fight to deliver the ‘hood version of the Sermon on the Mount.
Some similarity may be noted between Voight’s affected, porridge-thick Midlands brogue and the pace his direction imposes on the film. Credited as Showtime’s “first original family film,” it sounds a rather tinny voice against violence or for family values or even originality.