Genre: CG Animation
Director: Lino DiSalvo
Cast: Anya Taylor Joy, Gabriel Bateman, Daniel Radcliffe, Jim Gaffigan, Adam Lambert, Kenan Thompson, Meghan Trainor
Runtime: 1 hr 38 mins
Released By: Encore Films
Opening Day: 29 August 2019
Synopsis: When her younger brother Charlie (Gabriel Bateman) unexpectedly disappears into the magical, animated universe of PLAYMOBIL® and winds up in the evil clutches of Emperor Maximus (Adam Lambert), unprepared Marla (Anya Taylor Joy) must go on a quest of a lifetime to bring him home. As she sets off on a fantastic journey across stunning new worlds, Marla teams up with some unlikely and heroic new friends - the smooth-talking food truck driver Del (Jim Gaffigan), the dashing and charismatic secret agent Rex Dasher (Daniel Radcliffe), a wholehearted misfit robot, an extravagant fairy-godmother (Meghan Trainor) and many more. Through their vibrant adventure, Marla and Charlie realize that no matter how life plays out, you can achieve anything when you believe in yourself!
Much like how Playmobil the toy range is like an inferior version of the Lego the toy range, Playmobil: The Movie is similarly an inferior version of The Lego Movie. Playmobil: The Movie is a run-of-the-mill movie about how its protagonist, who was abruptly forced to grow up, rediscovers a sense of adventure and the joy of childhood.
While both movies are clearly attempts to sell movie merchandise and introduce new audiences/consumers to the toy ranges, PlayMobil: The Movie lacks the self-aware, ironic wit of The Lego Movie, reducing it to nothing more than an extremely long advertisement screaming “Buy and collect all of the PlayMobils!” for the smiling, claw-handed Playmobil toys.
The movie starts off with an unnecessarily extended prologue introducing high school senior Marla who dreams of travelling the world and seeking adventure. In a cliché plot development, she unrealistically becomes a hardened and dispirited guardian to her younger brother, Charlie, in the span of four years after her parents die in a tragic car accident (even adults don’t harden that quickly).
Beamed into a magical world of, you guessed it, Playmobil figurines, Marla and Charlie are transformed into three-inch, less expressive versions of themselves. Together they need to figure their way out of this world, and fight off the villains who undermine them. In the process, Marla, of course, rediscovers her sense of adventure and sheds the unnecessary adult persona she has adopted.
Despite the heaviness of a tragic death and the strong emotional stakes that this movie sets as its pretext, the cliché nature of that premise plus the fact that this movie feels like an overextended commercial, makes it hard to care for and sympathise with the two children. Their barely expressive faces and voices as Playmobil figurines makes it even more of an uphill task to feel for these characters. The male and female roles are also typecast with the boys having most, if not all, of the fun in the Playmobil world while the girls either end up as fairy godmothers or some vengeful villainess (with the exception of Marla who really isn’t a Playmobil figurine in the first place).
For a movie based on toy figures, the characters are, ironically, not much fun. Marla is not relatable and her brother Charlie is a bit of a brat. The villain, Maximus (voiced by the usually fun Adam Lambert) is a bore. The only bits of fun from any character is that of a Sterling Archer clone (voiced by Daniel Radcliffe) who is kind of an idiot while being a master of disguise but who never quite matches up to Sterling Archer in both aspects.
As the audience journeys through the different worlds of cowboy, futuristic, Viking, fantasy (which are clearly the worlds the audience is brought through because these are the different Playmobil universes available as toys), it feels like a child is eagerly showing off his collection of different Playmobil toys to the audience, waving something new and slick in the audience’s face. From a technical point of view, the director (Lino DiSalvo)’s expertise in animation from his time at Walt Disney Animation Studio is evident. The animation portion of this movie is slick and the computer graphics are fluid. The smoothness of the animation as well as the never ending in-your-face visuals will probably keep the children entertained but the lack of cleverness, a generic and entirely predictable plot will definitely bore the adults.
(If you want to watch a feature length commercial, this is the movie for you)
Review by Katrina Tee