Playmobil: The Movie

Review by Rich Cline | 3/5

Playmobil: The Movie
dir Lino DiSalvo
scr Blaise Hemingway, Greg Erb, Jason Oremland
prd Moritz Borman, Dimitri Rassam, Aton Soumache, Alexis Vonarb
with Anya Taylor-Joy, Gabriel Bateman
voices Jim Gaffigan, Daniel Radcliffe, Adam Lambert, Meghan Trainor, Kenan Thompson, Dan Navarro, Cindy Robinson, Paloma Rodriguez, Maddie Taylor, Kirk Thornton
release Fr/UK 9.Aug.19,
US 22.Nov.19
19/France StudioCanal 1h39

taylor-joy bateman radcliffe

rex dasher and marla
Based on the line of action figures, this rambunctious adventure throws everything at the screen, trying to be thrilling, funny and heartfelt. Energy levels are so high that kids perhaps won't mind that neither plot nor characters are developed. And there are just enough decent jokes scattered around to keep grown-ups vaguely amused. It's just a shame that no one on-screen connects with the viewer.
For four years after their parents died, Marla (Taylor-Joy) has cared for her brother Charlie (Bateman), leaving no time to pursue her dreams. Then at a museum exhibition, they're magically transported into the Playmobil world, where Charlie, who's now a viking, is kidnapped by a mad Roman emperor (Lambert). So Marla teams up with Del (Gaffigan), a loser who lives in a food-truck, to rescue him. As they race from the Wild West to an alien future to the dinosaur age, they get help from super-suave spy Rex Dasher (Radcliffe) and a Fairy Godmother (Trainor).
The script foreshadows what's to come by opening with Marla and Charlie playing as a knight and viking. And the writers have fun creating ever-insane scenarios to mix toy figures from a variety of eras. It's never as outrageously clever as The Lego Movie, but the film does have some charms of its own. Frustratingly, much of the humour is so dopey that it won't appeal to kids or adults. And the action is so frantic that it never makes much sense. But there's never a dull moment.

Taylor-Joy and Bateman are excellent in live-action scenes, then become somewhat screechy as animated characters, like the rest of the voice cast. There are some quiet moments between the nutty heists, battles and chases, during which each voice actor finds strong camaraderie with the figures around him or her. This helps the audience warm to them, but Marla is too frantic and Charlie too oblivious to pull us into the story.

The animation is eye-catching, cleverly using the variety of Playmobil sets. A witty initial gag has Marla struggling with unbending legs and single-grip hands, but that's about as far as the filmmakers are willing to go to poke fun at the products. Otherwise it's bright colours and lots of fast action and super-wacky comedy hijinks as the story zooms around, adding in elements from each milieu. It's a full-on mess of a movie, and children will never want it to end.

cert u themes, violence 14.Jul.19

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© 2019 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall