‘Playmobil the Movie’ is charming, but primarily for very young viewers seeking adventure.
Kernel Rating: 3 out of 5
MPAA Rating: PG Length: 109 minutes
Age Appropriate For: 5+. Like many children’s films, ‘Playmobil: The Movie’ starts with the off-screen death of the protagonists’ parents, which might be upsetting for young viewers; police officers arrive to, in hushed tones, tell the teenage daughter and younger son that their parents have died in a car accident. That is the most somber element of the film, which otherwise includes a variety of animated violence, such as Vikings fighting with each other, pirates kidnapping people, skeletons and a character gnawing on what looks like a human arm bone, a demented Roman leader planning to pit fighters against each other in the Coliseum, captured characters are held over a lava pit, there are threatening cowboy outlaws and a Tyrannosaurus Rex, and in self-defense, a female character kicks a male character in his groin. Some flirting and very lightly implied romantic tension between a few characters; characters hug. Siblings are hurtful toward each other but grow closer by the film’s conclusion.
By Roxana Hadadi
As much as a movie that mostly exists as a way to boost toy sales before the holiday season can be, “Playmobil: The Movie” is actually fairly charming. Unlike a lot of other films of this type, such as “The LEGO Movie” franchise, “Playmobil” keeps references to contemporary pop culture exceedingly limited. The most “current” thing one of the characters does is the floss dance. Otherwise, the focus of the film is on family loyalty, kindness, and responsibility, and there is a gentleness and simplicity to “Playmobil: The Movie” that will work particularly well for very young audiences.
Unfortunately, “Playmobil” begins in a way similar to various other children’s films, in particular those from Disney: making orphans out of the protagonists to add immediate tension to the film. In “Playmobil,” 18-year-old Marla (Anya Taylor-Joy), with pink and purple streaks in her hair, is planning to delay college and see the world. Her parents have provided a good life for Marla and her younger brother, 6-year-old Charlie (Gabriel Bateman), but Marla is ready to leave Brooklyn, with fantasies of daydreaming through Europe, Asia, and wherever else she can go.
Those plans change tragically when Marla and Charlie’s parents pass away in a car accident, and we jump to four years later. Marla is working a dead-end job, struggling to pay the bills, while Charlie is resentful of her overprotectiveness and strictness. When he sneaks out to attend a toy convention, Marla follows him into a vast room filled with thousands of Playmobil figures similar to the Viking and the knight that the siblings used to play with when they were younger. And when a magical, glowing lighthouse transports Charlie and Marla into the world of the Playmobil toys, they are transformed into their preferred toys, with Charlie now a muscular, tattooed, bearded and blond Viking warrior and Marla looking surprisingly just like herself, but with the toys’ C-shaped hands and lack of a nose.
This is sort of what Charlie wanted—a return to when Marla would play with him for hours, instead of worrying about the responsibilities of adulthood—but his joy is swiftly erased when he ends up kidnapped by pirates working for the evil Emperor Maximus (voiced by Adam Lambert). Maximus forces powerful warriors from around the Playmobil universe to fight to the death in his Coliseum, and while Charlie tries to figure out a way to escape, Marla attempts to find him. Although they’re separated and Charlie could be anywhere, Marla is committed to doing whatever it takes to getting him back—even if that means misleading her allies. Still, she makes a friend in food truck driver Del (voiced by Jim Gaffigan) and in the James Bond-like spy Rex Dasher (voiced by Daniel Radcliffe), and along the way also befriends the robot sidekick Robotitron (voiced by Lino DiSalvo) and a fairy godmother (voiced by Meghan Trainor).
Each sibling’s adventures are colorful, swiftly paced, and consistently amusing. Charlie falls in with a group of warriors who gently rib each other; Maximus is egotistical and devious without ever seeming truly dangerous. Marla’s compassion is a constant, and her commitment to her beliefs will make her an inspiration for young viewers. Her travels toward Charlie take her through lands filled with dinosaurs, aliens, and other mystical creatures, and the film relies on those animals and a number of jokes about food to keep the plot moving.
Of course, the adventurous spirit that “Playmobil: The Movie” encourages in its audience is related to the toys the movie is about. It might be worthwhile to have a conversation with younger viewers after the film about the joys inherent in actually seeing the world rather than simply playing with toys that pretend to offer the same experience. But still, the movie’s songs are funny, the voice performances are energetic, and the narrative isn’t overloaded with pop culture references that detract from its messaging about forgiveness and togetherness. “Playmobil: The Movie” puts together a pleasant combination that will work for young viewers.
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