The word “Playmobil” may not ring a bell for anyone who doesn’t have young children or who is over the age of ten, but that isn’t stopping the German toy brand one bit. Perhaps they were won over by the whopping amounts of money Lego raked in at the box office and in the toy sales that followed, but overall this latest feature-length toy advertisement can’t even begin to compare to the whimsicality and humour of the Lego movie franchise.
In Playmobil: The Movie, Marla (Anya Taylor-Joy) is a free-spirited and idealistic teenager who wants to travel around the world before she goes to college. Unfortunately, reality comes crashing down in the form of an accident that kills her parents, leaving her and her younger brother Charlie (Gabriel Bateman) alone to fend for themselves
Years pass, and Marla has to work to take care of Charlie and keep the household running, but seems to have forgotten what it’s like to have fun. In a fit of rebellion, Charlie sneaks out of the house and ends up in a toy museum with a mammoth Playmobil display.
However, just as Marla arrives to pick him up, they end up thrown into the colourful, magical plastic Playmobil world, with Charlie inhabiting the body of a Playmobil Viking. But just as they try to figure out how to get back, Charlie is captured by the evil Emperor Maximus (Adam Lambert). After that, it’s up to Marla to rescue Charlie with a motley crew that includes food truck driver Del (Jim Gaffigan), secret agent Rex Dasher (Daniel Radcliffe), a pirate captain (Kenan Thompson) and even a fairy godmother (Meghan Trainor).
Let’s be honest, no one really watches movies like these for the plot, and here the plot is as flimsy as it gets. The action ricochets from one scene to another at breakneck speed: one minute you’re in space, the next in a Roman gladiator arena, before you have to dodge a herd of triceratops on the road.
Director Lino DiSalvo (who previously worked on Frozen) seems hellbent on including as many Playmobil sets as he can into the story, and it shows in the choppy disjointed action that seems tailor-made for younger audiences with shorter attention spans.
That being said, the pace of the movie does sag a little in the middle when Marla starts to doubt whether she’d be able to ever find Charlie again. It’s all just so formulaic that it doesn’t really quite make you care for the characters or the progression of the plot.
Despite this, the animation in the movie is really quite pleasing to the eye once you get used to the inherent plasticky textures and bright colours. And while the musical numbers seem a bit laboured and unnecessary, Adam Lambert puts in a hilariously over-the-top performance as Emperor Maximus and puts that famous falsetto of his to great use.
This movie was never going to win any prizes, but it’s a fun romp for the family, with a liberal sprinkling of groan-inducing dad jokes for the parents who might otherwise be bored during the movie’s 99 minutes of runtime.
Score: 2.5/5 stars
Playmobil: The Movie opens in cinemas 29 August, 2019 (Singapore).