Playmobil: The Movie

1.5 out of 5 stars (1.5 / 5)

When The Lego Movie came out in 2014, no one could have anticipated the success of a franchise based on building blocks. The film combined the talents of uber-cool writer/director duo Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, the talent of the it-boy of the year, Chris Pratt and a brand that is recognised by multiple generations. The series has struggled to reach the same level of the triumphal entry of the original, but it did get the industry’s attention. Toymakers from around the globe thought this was the open door for them to lift the awareness of their products and earn the same recognition as the innovative team at Lego. 

Playmobil is a German-based toymaker that does have a significant global following, but they always seem like a runner-up to their Danish competitors. To think that they could enjoy the same outcome for their first film outing appears to be a stretch. One thing they have going for them is that there is little else out in the market for the younger set to enjoy and if they get the right formula this might be their time to shine. 

The story follows the adventures of siblings Marla (Anya Taylor-Joy) and Charlie (Gabriel Bateman), who find themselves magically transported into the multi-faceted world of the plastic toy manufacturer. They had been fans of the figurines as children, but life became less fun and more sombre when their parents pass away. In this new world, they are given extraordinary abilities that place them in the middle of Viking wars where Charlie proves to be a champion warrior in his new figurine form. His masculine prowess gets the attention of Emperor Maximus (Adam Lambert), the ruler of Constatinopolis. The new champion of the Vikings is captured to serve in the coliseum of the evil ruler. 

Marla must do all she can to rescue her brother from a potential demise on the battlefield. She must travel through the Old West, pre-historic lands and the future space-age to find her brother and discover the secret entrance into the world of Maximus. The young adventurer is assisted by Del (Jim Gaffigan) the entrepreneurial food truck driver and secret agent, Rex Dasher (Daniel Radcliffe). Their journey takes eventually brings along a band of warriors who hope to defeat the diabolical Emperor and assist in the release of Charlie. The two siblings must do all they can to survive this existence of plastic alter-egos and discover how they can get back to the real world. 

As parents search for the best films for families this holiday season, Playmobil: The Movie seems to fill the bill. A film based on beloved toys from Europe, multiple worlds to explore, comedic talents like Jim Gaffigan and the Bond-like action hero on board to add fun to this animated adventure. The only problem is that the instructions must have been missing when they opened the box and started production. Taking all their cues from those creative types over at Lego who made filmmaking look easy, the Playmobil team did not manage to find the formula for movie magic. Is it a musical, is it meant to be a comedy, or is this for a specific target market? Questions that are hard to answer by watching this story and it is not clear that there was any definitive direction during the creative process.

In amongst the confusion for cinematic identity, a positive aspect of the film is that it could be labelled as harmless for children. There is very little to object to in the screenplay for the little ones to consume, because there is not much to understand. There are songs, but the lyrics are forgettable and the vocal talent is less than stellar. The animation is decent, but does not match that of the latest animated series on Nickelodeon or Disney+. Hoping the jokes would come along to save the film is misplaced, because the cast can only do what they can with the script they are given to read. The jokes fall flat for children and adults, outside of a few pratfalls, there is not much to make the family laugh. 

It may prove to be the only option for families this Christmas season, but it might be better to go drag the Playmobil or Lego out of the closet and let your imagination run wild. This might prove to be far more entertaining and enjoyable than going to watch this film and the 3D graphics are even better. (Let the joke sit there and you will get it eventually. Humour that is a step above this screenplay.)

What parents should know about Playmobil: The Movie?We could have saved some money and watched The Lego Movie for the 100th time. Everything is Awesome! (Sorry… I put that song in your head again.)