By Nadia Kuin
With the huge success of the Lego movies it was only time before Playmobil jumped on the bandwagon and tried to cash in. Sadly though the satire, humour and social commentary that made Lego Movie appeal to adults as well as children was lost in translation.
The premise is simple, Marla, Anya Taylor-Joy (“ Split”, “ Glass “) And Charlie, Gabriel Bateman (“American Gothic (TV)”, “Outcast (TV)”), find themselves at a Playmobil expo and end up being sucked into the toy universe and can only find their way out once the directors have slapped you in the face with every clichéd moral platitude they could summon.
There are some genuinely humorous parts in Playmobil but although I chuckled I didn’t even hear a titter from the rest of the audience of which 90% were under 10.
Breaking into Disney style song in the first 5 minutes came as a shock, and not a particularly welcome one. It wasn’t the fact there was a song as much as the type of music itself and the prancing around as if we’d slipped into a musical. I was even less impressed when I appeared that Taylor-Joy was miming all the words.
It was refreshing to see that Playmobil didn’t get lost down the rabbit hole of romance where the main characters typically fall for one another and it ends up polluting the story.
That’s not to say Playmobil was exempt from thoroughly cringy moments; there was a part where the person I’d decided to inflict this particular visual delight on turned to me and said “we don’t really have to stay and watch this if you don’t want…” .
‘But you’re not the intended audience’ I hear you cry. I’d agree that the age of the average Playmobil user is somewhat younger than that even of a Lego enthusiast but think of the parents who have to sit through things like this on a weekly basis with their clutch — they need something to stop them from slipping into a boredom induced coma. The Lego Movie managed to get it right but Playmobil falls short.
What was always so good about Ardman Animations were the subtleties that only adults would really understand, not just in a turn of phrase but hidden objects in the backgrounds. Playmobil really should have been learning from them.
The camp-as-Christmas emperor, Adam Lambert (“Glee (TV)”, “Bohemian Rhapsody”) was certainly a much needed humorous addition to the film and unlike almost all the other characters was free from awful, cloying moralising (more on that later).
His song was also one of the better ones. Likewise agent Rex Dasher, Daniel Radcliffe (“ Beast Of Burden”, “ Swiss Army Man “) was a satirical nod to Bond but it was just the same nod over and over and really should have developed further.
The run in to the film, before you even see a single Playmobil character felt quite protracted. I tend to roll my eyes at those films that spend half the budget on a massive car chase and cram more explosions than a day on the western front into the first 5 minutes but Playmobil just needed to get on with it.
The oh-so-typical dead parents and older sister act should never have made it past the draft version, if you want to learn how to do an intro in more imaginative way you only need to look as far as Zootopia and the school play scene. Having said all that in all likelihood most things are going to appear original to this kind of age group, but still, D for effort.
I know that films (especially for pre 15s age group) often try to act as a bit of a moral guide to our youngest and most innocent. But If there’s one thing I hate (and if I were a parent would try to shelter my child from) it’s having hopelessly idealistic morals stuffed down my throat, so thick and heavy you almost choke.
No-one else on earth does that kind of cut and paste excruciating verbal diarrhoea quite like the guys at Hollywood and here it’s shown in all its awfulness.
Call me a cynic but I was also a little surprised by some of the film’s content; gladiatorial battles, tribe on tribe slaughter and kidnapping, did seem a little bit on the violent side for the age group. Ironic when considering how thickly they lay on the morals.
The idea of the different worlds that exist in the Playmobil universe was quite nicely portrayed though quite superficial, I only wished they’d done more with it.
One of the best and most imaginative aspects of the Lego movies are the fact they only use elements from the world of Lego; the fire is the little transparent fire pieces, the legs bend only where the models would etc.
Playmobil feels like it backs itself into a corner though, the characters feel like Mobil but the scenery, food and other elements don’t feel like they were created strictly along the Playmobil guidelines.
The lack of mobility of the models features briefly in the beginning, with some amusing outcomes but then it’s quickly forgotten which makes it feel like it should either stick exactly to the reality of the models as Lego did or allow for artistic license, not both. In the end the characters look like Playmobil but are just like regular people in every other way.
For their $75m Playmobil managed to hire the likes of Daniel Radcliffe and Meghan Trainor but they can’t add nearly enough zest to the movie to make it worth watching. The figures might not be in for the box office yet but I for one would be surprised if it’s anything but a flop.