The cynic says it looks like the brief probably was to get as many characters into a film that will make Santa’s wish list, in deed, my five year old son Elliott has already started wishing. Playmobil: The Movie was always destined not to be as loved as much as the Lego franchise, but open your own mind and don’t follow the crowd, it was enjoyable for both the kids and the parents that had a good few laughs.
While the first animated plastic characters we actually see are Vikings, Danish Lego owners wont feel overly pillaged and ransacked. For years there has been room in a market for both of these toy companies and there’s room for the films. While Lego became cool and benefited greatly from licences with Batman, Harry Potter and Star Wars, Playmobil have a little more generic characters and this film saw many of them with different eras clashing like the Romans meeting vikings and a hipster food truck driver, the fairy godmother, robot (a favourite of many) and a James Bond style/Kinsgman meets Johnny English secret Agent in Rex Dasher, voiced by Daniel Radcliffe. Watch any kid play, its not literal, so to see a Sheriff in a Western and a happy flying pink winged horse, makes sense.
A touching start with a connection between a free spirited older sister and her brother in live action real life, who end up breaking into positive song. While I actually liked the start, the songs in the film are not memorable, or awesome, that will leave you singing weeks after. But hey, that can be eventually annoying too, and it didn’t mean I enjoyed it less. I saw the bond between the two main characters, and as someone who has a great older sister, connected. It may have been missed on many people in the film, but when it showed them imaging worlds and adventure with the playmobil toys many may have just saw obvious product placement but look past that and you see how it should be, real life connection past the ipads and lone play. Imagination and free dreaming, a positive outlook and hope, less to conform.
A tried and tested heartbreaking kids film moment strikes the two siblings turning all this on its head, the bright colours turn dour until…
Without ruining the story, the ‘humans’ end up turning into playmobil characters. The younger brother Charlie turns into a Strong Viking Warrior, who almost seems to have kept his real life human powers – imagine a young boy playing with lots of action figures and able to knock them all over with one swipe. His sister, Marla, however is almost just a remade version just in plastic. A highlight of the film was her getting used to her new found body, perhaps a little more of this would have been good. The animated sequences are richly rendered, great as Playmobil is rather stiff and plain-looking. Its visually stimulating, while I liked it wasn’t as intense and almost anxiety inducing like many fast paced kids films.
You could think that Charlie would be the hero, but of course while one could say they both were and together stronger, it’s Marla who is the true protagonist re finding her strength, sense of adventure and courage as the story turns to rescuing Charlie, or ‘Charles the Great’ and picking up a eclectic array of friends who help along the way.
Criticising the story that goes from a tumbleweed dusty American western town to a fast travelling super highway to a magical forest and ending up in a coliseum for a grand finale of a gladiator battle is a little like what we do with children, curb their imagination to be more accurate in portrayal. One of my greatest childhood memories was coming home to find my dad had set up all my toys, mainly He-Man, into a great battle scene all over the living room, then playing with them all with him.
It’s that what I took away from the film. Let children have unscripted random play and stories, and do it together. They don’t need to grow up so soon.
If you asked a Playmobil to rate it with their hands, they’d give you a C, I’d actually give a strong B+. Elliott gave it 100 out of ten, his friend Leo loved it too.
Playmobil is in U.K. cinemas August 9th
Review by “Ian Berry”