Playmobil, you might remember, are the poor man’s Legos, a German building toy which comes with ugly blocky figures that have limited mobility and hands that look like cupholders.
Said figures also have cavernous black eyes that haunted my dreams for a couple years when I was younger. I owned a Playmobil pirate ship, complete with figures, at one point as a child, and I remember being both disappointed and vaguely creeped out when I opened it up on Christmas morning.
Those figures still haunt my memory on occasion, which suggests that Playmobil made some sort of impression on me when I was younger. But “Playmobil: The Movie”, which was just released on Blu-Ray, doesn’t even manage to be memorable in a horrifying way.
Do you know how many times I’ve thought about “Playmobil: The Movie” since watching it last night? Zero. Zilch. Nada. It was the sort of movie that was so bad, my brain was trying to forget about it as I watched it.
Playmobil, long known as nobody’s favorite toy, is now nobody’s favorite movie. Who’d have thought?
Greenlit after the massive success of “The Lego Movie” in 2014, “Playmobil” has some of that film’s structure if little of its heart and humor. There are live-action framing sequences with a couple of kids (one of whom is Anya Taylor-Joy of horror favorite “The Witch”); adventures through various Playmobil worlds/film genres (among them western, science fiction and spy thriller); and an ode to the power of imagination.
On paper, there is nothing wrong with any of this, but the execution in “Playmobil” is more than a little tone-deaf. In one of the film’s most unintentionally comical scenes, a happy musical number provides a segue into the revelation that two key characters were brutally murdered.
Characters disappear and reappear at random. Numerous plot points are dropped and forgotten. The cast is filled with rising stars (Taylor-Joy, Daniel Radcliffe), comedians (Jim Gaffigan, Kenan Thompson) and pop stars (Meghan Trainor, Adam Lambert), and none of them are given much of anything to do.
The songs are forgettable at best and could result in a permanent mental condition at worst. The very few jokes in the script never register as more than a mild chuckle.
I’m struggling to think of a single moment, character or scene that worked – minus the relief that came with the end credits.
The whole thing feels like an obligation and a paycheck for all involved. But remember: Just because they were obligated to be a part of this, that doesn’t mean you have to be.
There’s a famous question that film critic Gene Siskel used to ask when presented with a movie that had bored or disappointed him: “Is this film more interesting than a documentary of the same actors having lunch together?”
I’d like to pose a similar question for movies based on toys: “Is this film more interesting than watching a 6-year-old play with these toys for an hour-and-a-half?”
For “Playmobil”, that answer is a hard ‘no’. I know several 6-year-olds, and I’m sure that they are able to tell stories with more creativity, humor and heart than anything in “Playmobil: The Movie” (rated PG for action/peril and some language).
It might also be fun to watch a new generation of kids become traumatized by those dead-eyed pirates. But watching “Playmobil: The Movie” doesn’t even provide that small pleasure.
About the author
Stephen Dow is an award-winning journalist with a passion for film – not just consuming it, but thoughtfully and actively engaging with it. He believes that these modern myths have a lot to tell us about our world and ourselves. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.