Playmobil: The Movie
Updated: Feb 9, 2020
In 2014, Warner Bros. released The Lego Movie, an insanely successful shot at launching a big-screen franchise based around the famous toy brand. It was funny, subversive and smart. Five years later, ON Animation Studios is trying to do something similar for the Playmobil toy line. A series of figures/playsets spanning various cultures and historical eras, they seem like a decent jumping off point to tell all kinds of stories with (though their fan base is mostly kids, as opposed to Lego’s all-ages audience). Unfortunately, the people behind Playmobil: The Movie lack the imagination of the kids who play with the toys. It has absolutely none of the creativity or energy found in the Lego entries. Real little kids might be diverted, but their parents will probably be very bored.
It opens with a live-action prologue where teenage Marla tells her younger brother, Charlie, about her intention to travel the world. After their parents are killed in a car accident, she is responsible for him, causing her to put those plans on hold. Four years later, Charlie grows frustrated with her inability to have fun and sneaks out of the house. Marla finds him at a toy festival, where the siblings are unexpectedly sucked into the large Playmobil exhibit. Now in animated form, Marla is forced on the adventure she has been too busy for in an effort to save Charlie and get them back home.
Playmobil: The Movie (91 minutes without the end credits) is a musical/adventure/comedy that is not good at any of those things. The comedy is unfunny, the songs are uninteresting and the adventure is tremendously dull. The live-action framing section feels perfunctory (as though they had to do it because Lego did) and the animation fails to entertain.
Much like Lego replicated its look to make its movies visually unique, Playmobil copies its source’s jolly, plastic-y appearance. Unlike Lego, it does very little in terms of fitting that style into the narrative or personalities. The characters look like the toys and the worlds they visit represent some of the different playsets. Otherwise, it is the same as any other visually unappealing family movie. No thought was given as to how to make it matter that this takes place in a Playmobil universe. I have a suspicion it will not lead to a surge in Playmobil sales in time for holiday shopping.
Generally, even when I am reviewing something I disliked, I will go on about the acting, writing, direction, anything. However, there is just not a whole lot to say in regard to Playmobil: The Movie. It is a lazy attempt to cash in on a popular toy, without the drive needed to make it feel like anything else. The story is derivative of countless fantasy stories; nothing about it shows any purpose besides selling more toys. The voice cast (including Anya Taylor-Joy as run-of-the-mill heroine Marla, Jim Gaffigan doing his best to find laughs in lame material as her sidekick and Daniel Radcliffe as a cliché superspy parody who at least contributes a couple of okay sight gags) is fine, but they have nothing of interest to play.
It is hard to even muster annoyance at how pointless this is. It evaporated from my memory as I watched it. There are far more interesting family movies coming out in the next few weeks. Or take the kids to see Frozen II again. Regardless, they deserve better than Playmobil: The Movie.
1¼ out of 5
Anya Taylor-Joy as Marla
Gabriel Bateman as Charlie
Jim Gaffigan as Del
Daniel Radcliffe as Rex Dasher
Adam Lambert as Emperor Maximus
Directed by Lino DiSalvo
Screenplay by Blaise Hemingway, Greg Erb and Jason Oremland