If Playmobil: The Movie had a (memorable) theme song it would be Everything is Meh. Not offensive, actively unpleasant or particularly poor, just…meh. In fact, Playmobil: The Movie is exactly the sort of film which springs to mind when someone tells you that a Playmobil movie exists.
Marla and Charlie Brenner make a formidable team. When the siblings play, the world falls away and they are free to roam their imaginary Playmobil universe together. The Knight and The Viking are the tiny alter egos who unite and fight at their command, nothing is impossible for this adventurous pair.
Marla (Anya Taylor-Joy) has an appetite for adventure in the real world too. Elaborate travel plans festoon her bedroom and the first big song of the movie is peppered with excited exclamations over all the bright things the future will bring. Then tragically the bubble bursts.
Four years later childish things have been put away and replaced with the mundanity of running a household and the daily disappointments of the real real-world. Charlie (Gabriel Bateman) resents the sister who was once his champion and one rainy night he rebels and leaves.
Only serendipity, a man with a food van and an awful lot of plastic can bridge the gap between The Knight and The Viking. The epic quest they once longed for is about to push their fragile bond to breaking point but the only way home is to remember who they once were…
ON Animation Studios had an uphill battle with this project from conception. Small and unexpectedly endearing yellow figures having already cornered (and bricked up) the plastic playset to movie franchise market. Playmobil: The Movie needed to do something bold to set itself apart. Unfortunately, it doesn’t. Instead, it evokes a primary school classroom’s Show and Tell session taking part on a rainy Monday afternoon.
Setting estranged siblings loose in a surreal alternate world was a premise with potential. Marla and Charlie’s dynamic had potential too. Yet Lino DiSalvo’s feature cleaves the two apart the moment things get interesting. Prioritising Bond spoofs and infomercial depth product integration over story and character development.
What follows is a series of innocuous comedy sketches performed by a cast of Playmobil characters so random they feel pulled from a lucky dip and loosely connected by the common thread of Jon Favreau’s El Jefe (or its spiritual twin) careening across the screen as Marla morphs from feisty to generic inside.
It’s not all bad. Daniel Radcliffe’s Rex Dasher does raise a smile and an enchanted hay-bale set up early on has a delightful payoff. But it’s really not enough. Intended to be the first in a trilogy of Playmobil movies, it is hard to see how this film establishes the brand. Even the jolly bubblegum songs were curiously forgettable.
Empowering songstress Meghan Trainor plays Fairy Godmother to Marla’s damsel in distress and contributes to the soundtrack. Pharrell Williams’ song Happy (from Despicable Me 2) pops up for one confusing moment. It is the only tune that lingers and that is a sorry metaphor for the film as a whole. Playmobil: The Movie is derivative and underwhelming. Skip it and play with your figures instead.
Playmobil: The Movie opens across the UK on Friday 9th August