Playmobil: The Movie, 2019.
Directed by Lino DiSalvo.
Featuring the voice talents of Anya Taylor Joy, Jim Gaffigan, Gabriel Bateman, Adam Lambert, Meghan Trainor, Kenan Thompson and Daniel Radcliffe.
When her younger brother Charlie (Gabriel Bateman) unexpectedly disappears into the magical, animated universe of PLAYMOBIL, unprepared Marla (Anya Taylor-Joy) must go on a quest of a lifetime to bring him home.
Marla is afraid to tell her parents that she’s ready to set off for a life of adventure, new passport in hand. Cue the first song, and tragic news that separates a girl from her dream. But when younger brother Charlie yearns for fun in his life and sneaks off into a nearby toy convention, Marla is given an opportunity to rekindle that travelling spirit. Sucked into a plastic world filled with any number of pirates, romans, Vikings and even dinosaurs, Marla will stop at nothing on her high stakes rescue adventure.
The set-up is hardly revolutionary – quite reminiscent of the situation in Lilo & Stitch, but somehow far less heartbreaking. The screenwriters make no pretence that the film is anything but children fodder, wasting no time in getting stuck into the main quest. But delight shines in wonderfully drawn characters, a particular highlight being spy extraordinaire Rex Dasher, who can “outsting a mosquito”. The cast commit to the playful nature, and it is refreshing to see Anya Taylor Joy in a role that doesn’t require that spooky blank stare she seems to use in all of her other films. Though Playmobil often forgets that it seems to be a musical, it succeeds in casting singers Adam Lambert and Meghan Trainor, giving brilliant vocal performances in songs that elevate enjoyment considerably.
In a cynical sense, it would be easy to deride Playmobil as a marketing move. Like The LEGO Movie before it, the film spends a lot of time outlining the different worlds available to create (or buy), and the corresponding figures and accessories. This should not necessarily make it dead in the water – The LEGO Movie used that to its strength and created a story that managed to weave everything together. Perhaps it is Lino DiSalvo’s uninspired direction that lets the things down then. There is definite energy missing here, a level of fun to really sum up why we love to play. As it is, the script follows a pretty straight line from one playset to the next with little excitement or interest in what might happen when the characters move on. There is a strong taste of wasted potential in the action sequences of the piece: for a premise that allows its characters so many weapon accessories, a considerable amount of time is spent with those characters simply running away.
For fellow toy enthusiasts who might remember the joys of limitless imagination spurred by the titular playsets, the temptation for nostalgia is great. It might seem a little empty on second look though: Playmobil squanders the theme of creativity, opting instead for that one of adventure. Inspiring as this may be, it is repeated so often and in such a condescending manner that even the target audience might balk. While Playmobil: The Movie succeeds in providing the necessary entertainment of a summer release, the film fails to provide enough substance to warrant repeat viewings. Worth a trip to the cinema one cloudy day this August, but not worth the price of the DVD this Christmas.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★