After the huge success LEGO had at the box office with films such as ‘The Lego Movie‘ and ‘The Lego Batman Movie‘, the in some ways similar German toy brand ‘Playmobil’ announced production on their very own first cinematic adventure, in honour of the toy line’s 45th anniversary.
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. 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 (voiced by Jim Gaffigan), the dashing and charismatic secret agent Rex Dasher (voiced by Daniel Radcliffe), a wholehearted misfit robot, an extravagant fairy-godmother (voiced by Meghan Trainor) and many more. Through their vibrant adventure, Marla and Charlie realise that no matter how life plays out, you can achieve anything when you believe in yourself.
Admittedly, this film looked like a bad idea from the start, looking too much like a cheap knock-off of any of those Lego-movies, with a smaller budget, coming from a smaller studio. Also, Playmobil isn’t as big of a brand as LEGO is and with no brand awareness, how do you start promoting this worldwide?! The film though, borrowing gags from other franchises such as ‘Star Wars’ – a clear nod to Jabba the Hutt in form of Glinara; ‘James Bond’-look-a-like Rex Dasher; a colosseum warrior battle such as in ‘Thor: Ragnarok’; and a fairy wonderland in the likes of ‘Shrek’, isn’t as bad as initially presumed. Luckily, the demographic this is intended for – 4 to 10-year olds – has a wild imagination, and with worlds such as “City of the Future” and “Dino Jungle” their magical fantasies are coming true on the screen.
The crew who worked on Disney’s ‘The Princess and the Frog‘ and ‘Home on the Range‘, wrote this live action/animation-hybrid adventure musical, taking a little bit too much time to get to the final big battle to get our siblings back to the real world, which could challenge the smallest of children to stay seated. The constant action and sugared colour palette will for sure give parents a sugar rush they’ll need to recover from, but most modern animated shows are way worse in terms of hyperactive screaming and fart-jokes. At least most of the jokes in ‘Playmobil: The Movie‘ are enough thought through to make this enjoyable for both kids and their parents.
What might surprise audiences, is the musical aspect of the film. There’s about six very catchy songs, sung by the voice actors themselves, with the very first song performed in the real world by Anya Taylor-Joy (Glass), which reminded me of Lizzie McGuire, with a bubbly attitude, dreaming of traveling and exploring the world. The songs fit perfectly in the story and usually get performed when we enter a new section of the ever stretching make-believe world of Playmobil. The voice actors aren’t known for their singing – besides Adam Lambert (who is having so much fun being overly theatrical with his voice) and Meghan Trainor – but do a decent job at making it their own.
The clear message of being able to achieve anything, as long as you believe in yourself is a bit on the nose, but this doesn’t take away the fact that this harmless effervescent story will appeal to many kids with dreams such as Marla’s. The film screams to be made into a franchise, let’s just hope they learn from their shortcomings and the mistakes other toy brands have made before when taking the Hollywood-path.
Review – ‘Playmobil: The Movie’
Reviewed at Sony Pictures Theatrette, Sydney, Dec. 4, 2019. Australian Classification: G. Running time: 99 min.
PRODUCTION: A StudioCanal release of a DMG Entertainment, ON Animation Studios, On Entertainment production. Producers: Moritz Borman, Dimitri Rassam, Aton Soumache, Alexis Vonarb. Executive producers: Lino DiSalvo, Greg Erb, Adam Fogelson, Stephan Franck, Olivier Glaas, Emmanuel Jacomet, Dan Mintz, Bahman Naraghi, Jason Oremland, Tito Ortiz, Bob Persichetti, Robert Simonds.
CREW: Director: Lino DiSalvo. Screenplay: Blaise Hemingway, Greg Erb, Jason Oremland, Michael LaBash. Editor: Maurissa Horwitz. Music: Heitor Pereira.
WITH: (voices) Anya Taylor-Joy, Gabriel Bateman, Jim Gaffigan, Daniel Radcliffe, Meghan Trainor, Adam Lambert, Kenan Thompson, Kirk Thornton, Dan Navarro, Maddie Taylor.