Playmobil: The Movie

It's difficult to swing a sword when you don't have fingers
5/10 - Playmobil: The Movie is for the most part a tired attempt to sell toys but has enough emotional warmth to please its core audience.
Release Date: 
Friday, August 9, 2019
Written by: 

A young boy and his older sister rediscover their sense of adventure after being sucked into a Playmobil world.


After the unexpected critical as well as commercial success of The LEGO Movie, it was predictable that the Danish brand's rivals would follow suit and so we now have, Playmobil: The Movie, an adventure showcasing the German firm's figures and playsets.

Directed by experienced animator Lino DiSalvo, the film shares several elements with its brick-based predecessor, notably a live-action framing device and a focus on the Playmobil figures' ability to spark kids' imagination in a way grown-ups don't quite understand. 

Beginning with a joyful scene in which teenager Marla (Anya Taylor-Joy) and her little brother Charlie (Gabriel Bateman) express their love of adventure through Playmobil and song, the film quickly takes a darker and slightly incongruous turn when the siblings are orphaned by the death of their parents. 

Skipping forward four years, Marla is weighed down by the responsibilities of running a household, much to the annoyance of Charlie, now a surly pre-teen, who runs away after becoming fed up with his sister's abandonment of her sense of fun.

While on the way to visit a friend, he enters a toy exhibition, and discovers a huge Playmobil landscape depicting all the toys' possibilities - from Viking hordes to battles in the Colosseum.  

After Marla catches up with him, the pair are sucked into the Playmobil world Jumanji-style - with Charlie becoming his most beloved Playmobil character - a super-strong Viking.

Mistaken for one of the world's strongest warriors, Charlie is kidnapped by pirates working for the brattish Roman Emperor Maximus (Adam Lambert) - who wants to pit him against other captured heroes and villains in gladiatorial combat.

Marla, meanwhile, is left to try and find her brother - helped by oafish food truck owner Del (Jim Gaffigan).  

From there, we largely proceed on a LEGO Movie-like quest - with Marla and Del battling their way through various Playmobil worlds.

These include the Wild West, a knock-off James Bond villain's lair, through which they are helped by unsubtle 007 parody Rex Dasher (Daniel Radcliffe), a futuristic city, and a fairy tale wood and castle - all to ultimately save Charlie. 


Sadly, however, there's nothing of The LEGO Movie's wit in satirising its commercial inspiration, and although DiSalvo's animation skills make the film visually appealing, one early scene mocking Playmobil figures' inflexibility aside, there's nothing else that explores the toys' unique characteristics.

Essentially, were it not for the need to check in with every aspect of Playmobil's range, we could be watching any standard animated adventure.  

Although some of the jokes are vaguely amusing - with Dasher and Del providing the film's best comic moments and Maximus a pleasing, if slightly annoying, pantomime villain - there's little that will get even younger cinemagoers rolling in the aisles. 

What saves the film from being an entirely soulless enterprise is that its heart is still essentially in the right place.

Marla and Charlie's well-worn story of siblings rediscovering their childhood affection for adventure and each other may be ripped off from more creative franchises, but it still gives the film more warmth than the most shameless cash-ins like The Emoji Movie and Angry Birds

But there's still a sense of a missed opportunity, as the film's hackneyed script and lack of interest in truly exploring the creative nature of the product it exists to sell, means that this is a toy-based franchise that will struggle to raise too many smiles outside of its core audience of Playmobil-obsessed youngsters. 

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