Playmobil: The Movie

After the death of her parents in a car crash, teenager Marla (Anya Taylor-Joy) has to care for her younger brother and loses her sense of adventure. She rediscovers it when the siblings are somehow transported to a strange Playmobil world. When Charlie (Gabriel Bateman) is kidnapped, it’s up to Marla to rescue him.

By Olly Richards | Posted 6 Aug 2019

Just as Playmobil, a toy range invented in 1974, is like Lego with less scope for creativity, Playmobil: The Movie is much like The Lego Movie without the clever ideas. This is a generic ‘rediscovering the joy of childhood’ movie with merchandise opportunities grafted on.

Marla (Taylor-Joy) is a teenager excited about embarking on a trip around the world. That trip is halted before it starts when her parents are killed in a car crash (making the movie’s first ten minutes needlessly heavy) and she has to take over guardianship of her younger brother, Charlie (Bateman). Marla grows joyless and stern under the weight of her new responsibility, to the point that Charlie runs away from home to escape her. Charlie sneaks into a toy fair, where Marla tracks him down to a Playmobil display. For some reason, they’re magicked into a Playmobil world and transformed into toys, where they have to beat an evil emperor (Adam Lambert) and find a way home.

Feels like little more than a feature-length commercial.

Playmobil: The Movie never manages to establish a convincing world because it fails to tell us what the rules are here. All the characters look like Playmobil figures but they just act like regular humans. There’s no fun had with the limits of figures with legs that don’t move independently, hands shaped like cup-holders and largely identical faces. The journey through different worlds – cowboy, Viking, futuristic, fantasy – is because Playmobil makes those ranges. There’s little effort to give it more internal logic than that, and none of the confident self-effacement of The Lego Movie or Pokémon: Detective Pikachu.

There are injections of enjoyable surreality, mostly from a Daniel Radcliffe-voiced secret agent who is both a master of disguise and kind of an idiot, but not nearly enough. As it is, it’s just a gently pleasant kid-distraction. Everybody knows that movies based on toys are made to try and sell more toys, but it’s very much appreciated when they put some effort into disguising that. Playmobil: The Movie feels like little more than a feature-length commercial.

Maybe it’s fitting Playmobil: The Movie is old-fashioned, stiff and only suitable for those between the ages of four and ten, but it sure isn’t much fun.