'A Bug's Life' has 'Antz', 'This Is The End' has 'The World's End', 'Babe' to 'Gordy', 'Olympus Has Fallen' and 'White House Down' - twin movies happen all too often. Whether it be a complete coincidence, two like-minded studios with similar ideas, or more often than not Hollywood simply trying to cash in on another film's success. That's more than the case of today's films, 'Playmobil: The Movie' aka bad 'The Lego Movie'.
Plot that the trailer sells you on: Spy superstar Rex Dasher (Daniel Radcliffe, the 'Harry Potter' franchise, 'Imperium') has to team up with two civilians, Marla (Anya Taylor-Joy, 'Split', 'The Witch') and Del (Jim Gaffigan, 'Super Troopers 2', 'Hot Pursuit'), a food truck driver, as a top-secret organisation is kidnapping people, making it look like they are vanishing into thin air. This leads the team through various locations, high threats and a wild ride.
What the actual plot of the film is: Marla, a human being who's not animated, is ready to see the world and explore - but she has to stand up to her parents first. As she is pepping herself up to do this, her brother Charlie (Gabriel Bateman, 'Child's Play', 'Lights Out') interrupts her, so what does she do... sings to him a musical number of her dreams. After she is done, red and blue lights surround the house, she opens the door and two cops inform her of her parents' death. Four years pass and Marla, a once free-spirited young girl, has had to become the head of the household and take care of her brother. One night, Charlie sneaks out to go to a Playmobil exhibit (a totally real thing I'm sure), and when Marla tracks him down, they get into a fight and a Playmobil lighthouse transports them into an animated Playmobil world. Charlie is transformed into a Viking, while Marla is just herself. When a battle breaks out, Charlie is strong enough to fight them all, in turn getting himself captured by Emperor Maximus' (Adam Lambert, TV's 'Glee') men, who is on a mission to find all the strongest people so they can fight in an arena battle. In the meantime, Marla teams up with food truck driver, Del, to find her brother.
To say I was shocked by this movie is an understatement; live-action sequences and multiple musical numbers aren't something I could say I was expecting. It's very much like they were trying to take 'The LEGO Movie's' live-action twist, but made it the main plot. 'Playmobil: The Movie' should have just been this very simple, cheap animated ripoff, but becomes this batshit mess that I don't know why exists.
The animation is quite bright and the characters have a surprisingly wide range of emotion, but, of course, it's very cheap and so empty. We visit castles, spy agencies and Roman Empires, and everything is so empty and soulless.
As a musical lover, I always get excited for any kind of movie musical, even the trashy ones like 'UglyDolls' and 'The Lorax'. Hell, I saw 'My Little Pony: The Movie' purely because it was an animated musical. But the musical numbers here are so pointless and empty. Two pop stars appear in the film and both have musical numbers - Adam Lambert, who voices the film's villain, sings the worst song in the film; it's this terrible speak-singing number, and its just painful. The other is Megan Trainor, and her song is the most commercial, which is fitting because she originally wrote it for her upcoming album. The rest of the music is just forgettable, and while they don't happen too often, every time they popped up, I wanted it to end - which is saying a lot considering my love of musicals.
The animation is quite bright and the characters have a surprisingly wide range of emotion, but, of course, it's very cheap and so empty. We visit castles, spy agencies and Roman Empires, and everything is so empty and soulless. It might hold your kids' attention span, but it's not worth your time or theirs ('Frozen 2' is still playing, guys).
One might question the relevance of a Playmobil movie, especially in 2019 - hell, even 'The Lego Movie 2' underperformed this year. Upon some research, Playmobil seems to be somewhat popular in Europe, with France and Switzerland being the biggest markets; they still pull some big licenses, most recently have released a 'Ghostbusters' line and seem to have some deal with DreamWorks for both 'How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World' and their Netflix show 'Spirit: Riding Free'. But I still wouldn't say it's the most relevant brand for a feature film adaptation. That's proven even more by its recent U.S. opening weekend, making $660,000 from a budget of $13 million, opening in 2,300 theatres, and making it the third-worst opening weekend for a film opening in 2,000 plus cinemas.
'Playmobil: The Movie' misses the mark of being a fun adventure film, a 'Lego Movie' rip-off or even just a film so bad you have to see it. While the first ten minutes are very wild, the film loses steam quickly and becomes yet another bland forgettable kids' film.