Based on it’s historically bad box office numbers, you may not have known Playmobil: The Movie just opened this weekend. Even we cartoon fans here at Animated Views forgot to mention it in our news section as we usually do for a film’s opening day. I had other plans fall through this afternoon due to the weather and thought I might go catch the new Mr. Rogers movie with Tom Hanks. But after perusing the showtimes, I was reminded about this and decided to give it a go.

The film was announced five years ago as an obvious attempt to cash in on the surprisingly wonderful The Lego Movie, with producers announcing their version within months. It went through several studios, a bankruptcy, and two years of release date changes before finally reaching an audience in the United States.

With all that going against it, Playmobil: The Movie is a lot better than it has any right to be! Sadly, with several huge titles being released over the next few weeks, theatres are probably going to push this one out quickly to make their auditoriums more profitable. But here’s a mini-review to hopefully convince you to give it a chance, either very soon or later on home video.

The film surprises right out of the gate with a live-action opening sequence with an unexpected dark turn, giving things a lot more weight than you probably thought you were in for. The setup of moving the live-action characters to an animated world is done with out trying to explain anything — a somewhat refreshing choice to avoid unnecessary plot and just keep things moving. While that plot is a relatively by-the-numbers affair (Character A goes on a journey to rescue Character B), it is done well and never feels episodic. While it never gets close to the hilarity of The Lego Movie, the film does have a wonderful, if more muted, sense of humor.

Despite what you might think about a movie based on Playmobil toys, I thought the animation was really well done. At a reported cost of $75 million, this is not the typical low budget you would expect for a film like this. And while it will cost the producers dearly based on box office projections, at least the final product up on the screen (animation-wise) shows where the money went.

The voice acting was pretty good too — with one major exception. Anya Taylor-Joy is fantastic as adventure-loving but put-upon Marla. Gabriel Bateman gives an authentic performance as Charlie, Marla’s young brother who misses his sister. Daniel Radcliffe steals the show as James Bond-esque spy Rex Dasher. And Adam Lambert is a lot of fun as the evil emperor with the voice of an angel. Unfortunately, Jim Gaffigan as Del, the friend for hire who helps Marla on her journey, was not a good fit. His vocal choices were very grating to me.

OK, let’s be honest. This is not going to win any Academy Awards. But if given the chance to watch, kids will probably love it. Even I had a smile on my face most of the running time. It’s not hysterical, but it is fun. It’s not fine art, but it is well made. It’s not deep, but it is sincere. And it’s not Lego, but despite what everyone assumed, Playmobil isn’t trying to be.

Animated Classic or Back To The Drawing Board?

Playmobil: The Movie
STX, ON Animation
December 6, 2019
99 minutes
Rated PG
directed by Lino DiSalvo