With the huge success of The Lego Movie, which has seen its franchise bring in over $1 billion worldwide, it was no surprise others would look to join in the fun. The most recent competitor: Playmobil, who with their more family orientated entry, have created a film with a pure sense of joy that knows its audience and how to keep them entertained.
Following the sudden passing of their parents, Marla and Charlie (Anya Taylor-Joy and Gabriel Batemen) are finding life has not gone as planned. The adventurous world Marla dreamed of seems like a distant memory and the relationship between her and her brother is at breaking point. After Charlie runs away from home and stumbles upon a toy convention, the pair are magically whisked away to the Playmobil world in which Vikings, pirates, and secret agents co-exist and opposable thumbs are a distant memory. The siblings are separated and it quickly becomes a race against the clock for Marla to find her brother before he is thrown into the colosseum for the entertainment of the evil emperor Maximus (Adam Lambert).
Visually, Playmobil: The Movie is a treat with a huge range of different locations which all creatively use the classic toys for great effect. While the blueprints of how The Lego Movie operates are plain to see, this movie decides to do away with the tongue-in-cheek aspects and instead plays purely to entertain its majority audience: young children. Your usual slapstick humour can be found here, especially with Charlie who finds himself in the body of a heavily bearded, heavily tattooed Viking with incredible strength. There is also the inclusion of Rex Dasher voiced by the charismatic Daniel Radcliffe, once again proving that his post Harry Potter career is worth keeping an eye on. His witty line deliveries and tongue in cheek jabs at James Bond are a major highlight.
However, nothing shines quite as bright as the voicework and performance from Anya Taylor-Joy who not only has incredible chemistry with everyone she interacts with, but is able to bring some extra heart to a character who is constantly torn between her love for adventure and fear for her brother’s safety. She also happens to get the best song of the movie early on when she sings with Charlie about all the incredible adventures she can’t wait to go on. Easily the strongest song and performance which is a surprise considering the likes of Adam Lambert and Meghan Trainor are given a chance to flex those vocal chords. While her song fits perfectly for setting the mood, other songs from Emperor Maximus and a Fairy godmother (Meghan Trainor) feel more like distractions which slow the flow of the movie down and commit the worst crime of not being very memorable or catchy.
While the film is able to fill out its runtime with great adventures and a heartwarming sibling relationship, it is unable to offer anything past what others have been able to achieve before it. Its heart is fully in the right place and its intentions are pure but it lacks the extra level of heart to make this stand out in a year in which animated films like Toy Story 4 and How To Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World tackles issues of growing up and finding your place in the world much more effectively. Playmobil is going to be a massive hit with children and don’t be surprised if we see a sequel or two in the future with such a wide world of possibility to explore.
by Shaun Alexander
Shaun Alexander is a freelance writer based in London. His favourite films include Inside Llewyn Davis, Fish Tank and The Lobster, and enjoys writing on aspects of toxic masculinity and mental health in film. He has recently realised a love for the genre of “Period Drama Women Behaving Badly” Follow on twitter @salexanderfilm