Review - Playmobil: The Movie
Following the success of franchises such as The Lego Movie and Trolls, the latest toy brand to try its plastic hand at a Hollywood picture is- Playmobil.
Starring Anya Taylor-Joy, Daniel Radcliffe and Adam Lambert, this obscure animation from On Entertainment/ On Animation Studios actually has a lot of advertising behind it thanks to Studio Canal, but, is it just another carbon copy animated film?
I was always intrigued by this project, it was blantently a company wanting to mimic the success of a competitor- Lego. But as a more niche and european brand, Playmobil has never had the cultural impact that Lego has. Never-the-less as a child I owned a fair bit of Playmobil and while not as unique as Lego, I was interested to see how they utilised it in a movie.
The film begins with a live action Anya Taylor-Joy as Marla and her younger brother, Charlie as they dream of a more adventurous life, scared of whether their parents will agree. Marla and Charlie's bond is symbolised by their games of Playmobil which they use to act out their adventures. But before asking her parents if she can travel, Marla and Charlie face some tragic news.
Its an unexpected dark turn for this bright and cheery film, which is used to propel the film four years later. At this point Marla is much more serious and bogged down by the stress of life but Charlie yearns for the old days, dreaming of adventure.
The film is set in motion when Charlie runs away into a toy fair where a model Playmobil village transports him and his sister into a fantasy world that reflects the model they have just been standing in.
It's a narrative we've seen in plenty of animated and fantasy films before, but what makes this different is actually the very beautiful and imaginative set up of the Playmobil model at the Toy Fair. When Marla passes through the curtain to see it, she gives out a “wow“ for how detailed and beautiful it is, and to the film's credit, it's justified.
The model and how it’s represented on screen, shows what could have been a more inventive and visually interesting film, but instead we are transported to a more generic and sometimes ugly computer animated world.
The Lego Movie used cutting edge technology to display computer generated bricks that look exactly like their real-life counterparts, even down to their imperfections. The lighting and focus of the Lego movies, give it the charm of stop motion, that this isn't able to pull off. While it might be unfair to compare, especially considering a bigger company- Warner Brothers helped with The Lego Movie, Playmobil opens itself to such comparison in its very concept, especially when it shows a better alternative from the get go.
On the plus side there is some fun to be had here, with creative ideas which pull from some of the nuances of the toys and the occasional funny joke. Playmobil doesn't have a lot for adults to enjoy in the same way other animated films do, but characters like Radcliffe's Rex Dasher offer a lot of funny moments.
From the fun musical themes (oh yeah, this is a musical by the way, who knew?) some of which work, others are pretty generic, along with the playful dialogue from characters like Rex and Del, the movie does often have a nice charm.
But once the jokes of magic hay, cute robots and charismatic animals are out of the way the rest of the story is pretty generic. While the likes of Megan Trainor (who probably has the strongest song), Adam Lambert (who doesn't) and Jim Gaffigan offer some enthusiastic performances they're not enough to cover their thin characters, many of which offer very little motivations or involvement in the progression of the plot.
Throw in some pretty forced messages of finding what's important and following your dreams and Playmobil: The Movie leaves you pretty unchanged by seeing it. It's a fun and pleasent film for children, which entertained and captivated my audience. So for kids who love the toys and want something to enjoy during the summer, then this is a solid choice.
If you're hoping for another Lego Movie, this definitely is not that, with the filmmakers missing the chance to use the realistic and detailed charm of the toys, much of which is made up of modern, city and police/ vehicle sets, that fit perfectly with the beautiful model they display at the beginning of the film.
While there certainly is many themes to Playmobil, other animated films have succeeded in displaying multiple worlds a lot better so ultimately this could have really benefitted from a vividly different approuch.
Ultimately a mixed bag Playmobil is unfortunately just another generic animated film, which has fun ideas and jokes but can't help but feel like a wannabe of better films.