In 2014, The Lego Movie changed what we thought a movie based on a toy line could be. It wasn’t just a mediocre feature-length commercial. It used the toys to their advantage and created a story that fit the brand. Its perfect combination of beautiful animation and heartwarming charm was enough to propel the film into the modern animated classic it is considered today.
And because of this, other studios have been looking to create franchises based on toys Warner Bros. didn’t snatch up. Two years later, DreamWorks released Trolls, followed shortly by Sony’s The Emoji Movie. STXfilms even tried earlier this year with UglyDolls. The only problem is that, aside from Trolls, none of them have been able to recreate the blockbuster results of The Lego Movie.
Well, STX is trying again with a new film based on the German toy line Playmobil. This brand, as many already know, bares similar traits with Lego. They are themed play sets with little figurines. As a result, it has been called a less desirable alternative to Lego. It does have its fair share of fans and collectors, just not as much as the other. So, how does a movie based on this brand fair compared to the one based on their competitor?
Playmobil’s theatrical adventure takes us to the animated fantasy realm of their themed sets and figures. New to the world is Marla (Anya Taylor-Joy), a young girl who was forced to look after her brother Charlie (Gabriel Bateman) after their parents’ deaths. When Charlie sneaks out to look at a Playmobil exhibit, he and Marla are magically transported into the colorful, wacky world.
When the two become separated, Marla is determined to find her brother and make it back to the real world. She is forced to team up with a fast-talking food truck driver named Del (Jim Gaffigan) and a skilled secret agent named Rex Dasher (Daniel Radcliffe) in order to find her way through the many crazy worlds. But with an evil Greek emperor named Maximus (Adam Lambert) also on their tale, she’ll have to work outside her comfort zone in order to make it out alive.
While Playmobil is often regarded as inferior to its competition, sadly its film adaptation is likely to develop the same reputation. Playmobil: The Movie fails to justify its own existence by doing nothing to reinvent its throughly derivative story or even incorporate its own source material. Very little of the movie has to do with the toys themselves, and because of their generic look, this could have been just any old bargain bin family film.
The reason The Lego Movie worked the way it did was how it incorporated the toys. Every single aspect of the Lego world was made of Lego pieces; from puffs of smoke to waves of water. It gave the film its own unique look that helped set it apart from other, similar films. This is where the Playmobil movie goes wrong.
Aside from bringing their signature figures to life, the world around them looks about as generic as possible. There’s absolutely nothing to set this film apart from the countless others that came before it. You can give this movie an entirely new name and nobody would have any idea it was made for Playmobil.
The film does very little with the story its blatantly ripping from other animated family films. It’s a basic story line with twists and turns we’ve seen many times before. It doesn’t even try to justify its musical numbers, which are so few and far between that when the characters do break out in song, it feels completely out of place. It also doesn’t help that the songs are very unremarkable.
The only good thing to really say about this movie is that Anya Taylor-Joy gives a surprisingly committed performance, both in the live action and animated portions. Throughout the film, she seems to be the only one who tries to fit into her character. While the same can’t be said for the rest of the cast, who aren’t that great despite the talent lined up, at least she tried to give it her all.
Playmobil: The Movie tries for an epic adventure like its toys advertise, but with a story that only treads familiar territory and animation with personality, this brand-based film is only destined to be remembered as one of the many that unsuccessfully tried to copy The Lego Movie. It may have one committed performance, but that isn’t enough to forgive this film for waisting our time with recycled plot and out-of-place songs. It isn’t enough to just make a movie based on toys, and hopefully people start to catch on, or else we’re in for some serious dreck in the future.