Playmobil: The Movie review – Girls rule in a plastic world

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It’s The Lego Movie for dummkopfs. With crappy songs. But for a movie so clearly doubling as product placement, it’s also fun, a cartoon (bookended by live-action sequences) which allows talented actors to riff on unexpected themes.

The central characters are teen Marla (Anya Taylor-Joy; sparky) and her kid brother, Charlie (Gabriel Bateman). Early on, Marla and Charlie’s parents get killed, and for the five minutes that follow, everything seems shrouded in darkness (it’s like peering into an especially grave-like cave).

At the screening I attended, various tots, clearly taken aback by this choice of mise-en-scène, screamed the house down. Many had to be carried out. You could feel the relief once Marla and Charlie became toys in a rainbow-hued world. 

Charlie, in plastic form, is a sexy, bearded viking. Marla (who doesn’t get a costume change till later) flirts with bearded men, which creates a weird, vaguely incestuous sub-text. Charlie is hairy enough to be her boyfriend. Anyway, when Charlie is kidnapped, Marla is forced to team up with wannabe-hipster food-truck driver, Del (Jim Gaffigan) and his James Bond-ish pal, Rex (Daniel Radcliffe). Which is great, because Del and Rex are properly funny. 

A toy story – Playmobil: The Movie

Gaffigan is a US comic who wrote a memoir called Dad Is Fat, and Food: A Love Story. He was surely allowed to improvise the bit where Del lists other career paths he might follow. “I do modelling,” he boasts. “And I cook. Yeah, I cook what I like to eat. Which turns out to be everything. Which interferes with my modelling.”

Meanwhile, Radcliffe sounds like he’s doing an impersonation of Kingsman’s “Eggsy”, in other words, a secret agent who’s far less mean, lean and experienced than Bond. Kids, of course, won’t be familiar with Kingsman. Or know that Radcliffe and Taron Egerton are the same age. But adults will get it: grizzled spies are boring.

By the way, Marla is crucial to the proceedings from start to finish. Wearing a ton of make-up in the opening scenes, she’s like a new, improved version of CS Lewis’s Susan Pevensie.

Though interested in lipstick, and keen on being grown-up, she is never dismissed as silly or vain. Via Marla, youngsters are taught a simple lesson: it’s possible to embrace adolescence and “childish things”, all at the same time. 

Yah boo sucks, Lewis! Girls such as Susan are now the stars of the show.