DIRECTOR: LINO DISALVO | SCREENPLAY: GREG ERB, JASON OREMLAND | STARRING: ANYA TAYLOR-JOY, JIM GAFFIGAN, GABRIEL BATEMAN, ADAM LAMBERT, KENAN THOMPSON, MEGHAN TRAINOR, DANIEL RADCLIFFE | RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW
First up, a personal admission: when this writer was little, he preferred Playmobil to Lego. Yes, I know Lego is infinitely repurposable, with blocks that can be fitted together into countless shapes to make whatever you choose, and Playmobil comes in static, fixed shapes onto which you may impose character or story but not form but… well… I just liked the toys more. They were bigger.
Now, we don’t know if you’d noticed, but there was a Lego movie that came out a while ago, which was funny and clever and hit adults and children alike right in the feels while simultaneously delivering a relentless stream of whipsmart jokes. The Playmobil movie isn’t that. Where The Lego Movie saw a film that played with the form of the toy it was based on and constructed a narrative around how children, and adults, interact with that toy, imaginatively and physically, the people behind the Playmobil: The Movie have created… er… some brand extension. Some not very good brand extension.
The film starts with a human, a not-even-animated human come to that (Marla – played by Anya Taylor-Joy), which threw us; a human who breaks into song before the credits have even finished rolling... She then plays Playmobil with her brother for a bit before a knock comes at the door, and the film becomes inexplicably intensely bleak. We then fast forward four years to an even bleaker future, with still no animation in sight, where Marla is the sole carer for her frankly horrible younger brother (now a different actor) who sneaks out to a big toy fair for reasons that are never explained. In an attempt to recover a lost ten-year-old (like the snarky, shrivelled old witch that she is, the film implies) Marla finds herself, with brother Charlie, getting sucked out of the bleak real world into a colourful Playmobil world full of unremitting violence, inhumanity and falling over. Lots and lots of falling over. ‘Cos kids dig that, right?
Through Marla’s adventures trying to rescue Charlie, we learn that… erm… a greedy shyster hippy guy she meets is good at cooking and… er…. that… that she should have more adventures, rather than just selfishly being the sole carer for a ten-year-old…? Maybe? That really is about the size of it.
If you try hard you can spot some almost good bits in the film, particularly Daniel Radcliffe as a cheesy super-spy, and a couple of enjoyably camp villains with the odd one-liner that lands, but by and large it feels like it’s been written by people that don’t really understand what made The Lego Movie work but who really want to make The Lego Movie without having to think too hard about it. There are about two stars-worth of entertainment to be wrung out of this film but only if you like people falling over (so much falling over…) and don’t, even for one second, imagine that this is The Lego Movie. As Marla says at the bleak start of the film “Life is made of crushed dreams and disappointments”. There’s a woman who was expecting The Lego Movie if ever we heard one!