Playmobil: The Movie (2 stars)


The German toy brand have a crack at their own animated adventure, with underwhelming results

It's been five years since The Lego Movie stormed the box office to the surprise of many. It has since spawned two spinoffs and one sequel, with less impressive returns. Now it's time for another small-world toy brand, Playmobil, to have a crack at a big screen adventure; helmed by Lino DiSalvo (the head of animation on Frozen, making his directorial debut), it's a film predominantly geared towards a very young audience, with insufficient humour to keep accompanying adults entertained.

Adam Lambert and Meghan Trainor deliver mildly entertaining but easily forgettable musical numbers in a live-action bookended animation that whisks its viewers through many different genres, including sci-fi and western, and historical settings, such as ferocious Viking battles and Roman gladiatorial contests. Despite featuring the talents of Anya Taylor-Joy (as older sister Marla to Gabriel Bateman's Charlie, forced to trade in her childhood dreams for adult responsibility) and Daniel Radcliffe, as a suave British spy channelling the cheekier side of James Bond, the film doesn't manage to entirely shed the notion that this is just an elongated advert. It's missing some of the warmth and storytelling flair of the best toy adaptations, and loses momentum quite early on.

What it shares with The Lego Movie 2 is its strong handle on the sibling relationship. As Marla and Charlie come to terms with grief, they rekindle their bond by disappearing into a fantasy world where they become Playmobil figures. Taylor-Joy is at all times delightful in her live-action and voice performance, with her concern for her brother feeling heartfelt. Yet, as Playmobil: The Movie attempts to pay homage to an array of famous films and the thrill of imagination, it lands itself in a sticky situation by playing it overly safe. The references are simply too familiar to excite, as it coasts along on nostalgia and a well-worn formula.

General release from Fri 9 Aug.

Playmobil: The Movie

  • 2 stars
  • 2019
  • France / Germany
  • Directed by: Lino DiSalvo
  • Cast: Anya Taylor-Joy, Daniel Radcliffe, Kenan Thompson
  • UK release: 9 August 2019

Marla (Taylor-Joy) and Charlie (Bateman) are siblings who come to terms with grief by entering a fantasy world where they become Playmobil figures. Taylor-Joy is delightful with both live-action and voice acting, but it misses the warmth and storytelling flair of the best toy adaptations and plays it overly safe.