Babes in Toyland (1986)

babes in toyland poster 1986 movie drew barrymore keanu reeves
1 Overall Score
Story: 1/10
Acting: 1/10
Visuals: 1/10

The Cincinnati song is so bad it is good

Everything about this movie

Movie Info

Movie Name: Babes in Toyland

Studio: NBC

Genre(s): Musical/Family/Sci-Fi/Fantasy/B-Movie/Seasonal

Release Date(s): December 19, 1986

MPAA Rating: G

babes in toyland workshop jill schoelen keanu reeves pat morita googy gress

I think we took some bad acid

Lisa Piper (Drew Barrymore) is growing up too fast.  Her mother (Eileen Brennan) is busy with work, and Lisa finds herself taking care of her family.  When Lisa is involved in a car accident while picking up her sister Mary (Jill Schoelen), her boyfriend Jack (Keanu Reeves), and his friend George (Googy Gress) at toy store they work at on Christmas Eve, Lisa finds herself transported to Toyland.  In Toyland, Lisa discovers Mary is Mary Contrary, Jack is Jack-be-Nimble, George is Georgie Porgie, her mother is Widow Hubbard, and the toystore owner (Richard Mulligan) is the evil Barnaby Barnicle.  Now Barnaby is trying to get control of Toyland, and the only person standing in his way is Jack-be-Nimble.

Babes in Toyland was a made-for-TV movie which first aired on NBC on December 19, 1986.  Adapted from the 1903 Victor Herbert operetta, it was directed by Clive Donner and was critically panned.  An international version of the film shorted the 142 minute runtime to 94 minutes and is generally the version available.

babes in toyland drew barrymore richard mulligan

I’m am totally freaking out…who are you…what am I doing there?!?!

Babes in Toyland is one of those stories I never found very compelling.  All versions of the film seem to flounder plotwise past the idea of living versions of nursery rhymes and the tale fails as a result.  This version of Babes in Toyland is a spectacular failure due to the production values and acting.

The movie adapts the Babes in Toyland operetta in almost name only (it only uses a couple of songs).  Originally Babes in Toyland was seen as a bit of a target for The Wizard of Oz and this really pushes The Wizard of Oz aspect of the story since characters in the real world of the wonderful Cincinnati, show up in Lisa’s fevered dreams.  It is not entertaining for kids or adults (except in the so-bad-it-is-good fashion).

It also doesn’t help that the actors are fumbling through the movie.  Drew Barrymore is horribly miscast as a “young girl” and is too old for the movie about a girl who grows up too fast (which ironically Barrymore did suffer from).  She looks like she’s already got problems, and from her own personal accounts of her life, she probably already did.  Keanu Reeves is somehow a surfer guy that landed in the middle of Cincinnati and delivers his lines like Ted and is paired with Jill Schoelen who does her best in the situation.  You also feel sorry for Eileen Brennan, Richard Mulligan, and Pat Morita (who plays the Toymaker…aka Santa Claus) should be above this.

babes in toyland keanu reeves drew barrymore jill schoelen googy gress cincinnati song

At least the movie has the wicked-awesome Cincinnati song!

The movie is marred by horrible special effects that are meant to be surreal, but just come off as cheap.  Giant animals suits and goofy critters are paired with some of the worst music brought to screen.  Despite that you get the awesome Cincinnati song which is possibly the best thing ever! (sarcasm)  It is supposed to be silly, but it is just bad.

Babes in Toyland is a miserable experience.  Cincinnati would rock in comparison to this Toyland, and I can understand why.  Babes in Toyland’s story was ahead of the curve in that series like Once Upon a Time and Bill Willingham’s Fables comic book series blended reality and fairytale in the real world.  Toyland is suppose to be a fun fantasy, but there is no fun in this movie.  Let Toyland die…it never has been good and hopefully filmmakers will realize it.

Related Links:

March of the Wooden Soldiers (1934)

Babes in Toyland (1961)

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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