Playmobil: The Movie Dec 7, 2019 17:01:08 GMT -5
Post by StevePulaski on Dec 7, 2019 17:01:08 GMT -5
Playmobil: The Movie (2019)
Directed by: Lino DiSalvo
Directed by: Lino DiSalvo
Rex Dasher (left, voiced by Daniel Radcliffe) and Marla (voiced by Anya Taylor-Joy) in Playmobil: The Movie.
I might've been one of the only souls who approached Playmobil: The Movie with some marginal expectations, not to mention a glimmer of optimism. I grew up playing with Playmobil toys as a child, and remember many a Christmas I was gifted anything from a commercial plane set to a grocery store that came with inventory and numerous choking hazards not for children under four. I loved LEGOs dearly, but there was a linearity to Playmobil I found attractive; they had several different "series" that encompassed city life, wild life, and even circus-themed sets that, unlike LEGO, had accouterments that actually looked like their real-life counterparts. The figures had few points of articulation (their legs and arms wouldn't bend), but they still made for an afternoon of fun and imagination. Don't get it twisted: it was Mega Bloks that were the "poverty LEGOs," not Playmobil.
Playmobil: The Movie could've absolutely been a worthy adaptation had it been handled with the similar care and attention the writing/directing team of Phil Lord and Christopher Miller brought forth with The LEGO Movie. Alas, this is another film — like Captain Underpants, Ratchet & Clank, and soon Sonic the Hedgehog — that was made about fifteen years later than it should've been. The generation that would've eaten this type of film up is now in their mid-to-late twenties, some with kids of their own who probably don't pay any mind to Playmobil toys. For us stuck under the undying spell of nostalgia, Playmobil: The Movie is a belated, unsatisfying reminder of what happens when something is late to a party that ended years ago.
The film opens with a hokey frame-story that turns unnervingly dark in a matter of minutes. It starts in the real world, with Marla (Anya Taylor-Joy, Thoroughbreds), who has just graduated high school and plans to tell her parents she wants to enjoy a gap-year of traveling the world before even considering college. She tells, or rather sings to, her little brother, Charlie (Gabriel Bateman, this year's Child's Play reboot), about her plans until a knock at the door from two police officers brings both of their worlds down: their parents have died in a car accident. Flash-forward four years, and Marla, now in her twenties, is maintaining the household with an understandable rigidity that nonetheless upsets the thrill-seeking Charlie, who looks at her as a fun-crusher.
Charlie winds up running away to a toy fair with a gigantic display of Playmobil toys, boasting every facet of the world and history with a Roman Colosseum, vikings, pirate ships, and more. Marla arrives to scold her brother, but not before he places his viking figure on the toy-set, which transports them both into the world of Playmobil as figurines themselves. While Marla transforms into her plastic counterpart, Charlie is a bearded viking, who gets captured by Emperor Maximus (voiced by Adam Lambert); the Emperor plans to have Charlie go toe-to-toe with a T-Rex while Marla must rescue Charlie and figure out how to return home. In her pursuit, she links up with Del (Jim Gaffigan), a quirky food-truck driver who agrees to help her for a lump-sum of viking currency Marla promises but doesn't have, along with the slick secret agent Rex Dasher (Daniel Radcliffe), to find him.
Probably the most glaring misstep writers Greg Erb, Jason Oremland, and Blaise Hemingway make in their attempt to depict the world of Playmobil is a failure to play by the rules they set. One of the most egregious instances is when Marla and Charlie first get turned into toys; there's a bit showing Marla struggling to walk, given that Playmobil figures cannot bend their legs. This is a problem for about a minute before it's completely a non-issue, for she's fluidly running with bent knees in no time. Some animals, like horses and dinosaurs, have textured fur and scales that Playmobil toys wouldn't have, and the entire sense of worldbuilding is completely random. For as frantically paced as The LEGO Movie, the obvious point of comparison, was, there felt like a rhyme and reason to the madness that unfolded on-screen.
Playmobil: The Movie hopscotches from different settings at random. With such a manic sense of urgency, there isn't enough time to appreciate the diverse landscapes shown. Rather than Marla and Del interacting with their settings and feeling like a part of them, the trio of writers feel wound up like children, flinging their protagonists about in such a haphazard manner that leaves no room to breathe for them nor the audience. Some quality humor and wit would've alleviated this, but let's just say, even if the meta humor of The LEGO Movie grew worn by the third installment, this ain't the work of Lord/Miller when it comes to having characters speak with authentic humor. The dialog is comprised of exclamations, sarcasm, and puns, and it makes for an occasionally grating experience.
STX Entertainment was originally going to drop Playmobil: The Movie into theaters, with virtually no publicity whatsoever, at the tail-end of August. Instead, they quietly pushed its release back to the first official weekend in December, again with no marketing outside of in-theater trailers. Too, it curiously comes at a discounted ticket price (to my knowledge, all showings in the US, regardless of matinee, evening times, or given theater-chain are a mere $5/a ticket). If STX was so thoughtless and inconsiderate with the marketing and box office performance of this film, they could've at least relegated it to a direct-to-streaming release, which is debatably what it should've been all along.
I left Playmobil: The Movie disappointed. It was the rare instance where that feeling was entirely on me. Nobody gave me any reason to be excited other than my own misguided nostalgia. These toys deserved better.
Starring: Anya Taylor-Joy and Gabriel Bateman. Voiced by: Anya Taylor-Joy Gabriel Bateman, Jim Gaffigan, Daniel Radcliffe, Adam Lambert, Kenan Thompson, and Meghan Trainor. Directed by: Lino DiSalvo.