[Screen It]


(2019) (voices of Anya Taylor-Joy, Gabriel Bateman) (PG)

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Computer-Animated Comedy/Adventure: After being magically transported into a world of Playmobil figures, a young woman desperately tries to find her younger brother who's been kidnapped by some of them.
While high school senior Marla Brenner (ANYA TAYLOR-JOY) enjoys hanging out with her 6-year-old brother Charlie (GABRIEL BATEMAN), she's hoping to take time off from school to see the world. But that all changes when their parents are killed in a car accident.

Now four years later, Marla has lost her spirit of wonder and adventure, something not lost on Charlie who's mad that she no longer wants to play. Accordingly, he sneaks off at night to a toy convention in midtown Manhattan, and when a worried Marla tracks him down there, both end up magically transported into a Playmobil world where they've become Playmobil characters.

Charlie now has the physique and fighting skills of an adult as the two find themselves in the middle of a battle between pirates and knights. Charlie helps the latter be victorious, but ends up kidnapped by pirates who deliver him to Maximus (voice of ADAM LAMBERT), the Roman emperor of Constantinopolis who enjoys entertaining the masses by pitting his prisoners against his prized beast.

Marla isn't initially aware of that and ends up meeting food-truck driver Del (voice of JIM GAFFIGAN) who agrees to help her search for Charlie in exchange for a bag of gold in her possession. He needs that to pay off a Jabba the Hutt style alien known as Glinara (voice of MADDIE TAYLOR) and thus has her meet secret agent Rex Dasher (voice of DANIEL RADCLIFFE) who might be able to help them.

Marla gets additional help from a Fairy Godmother (voice of MEGHAN TRAINOR) and even Glinara's personal robotic assistant, Robotriton (voice of LINO DiSALVO), while Charlie finds himself alongside other prisoners such as Pirate captain Bloodbones (voice of KENAN THOMPSON), all while wondering if he'll ever see his sister again.

OUR TAKE: 3.5 out of 10
Our reviewing policy for films that aren't shown in advance to critics is that we'll only provide a paragraph or two about the film's artistic merits or, more accurately, lack thereof. After all, life is too short to spend any more effort than that on a movie that even the releasing studio knows isn't any good (which is why they hid it from reviewers before its release).

Back when I heard that a movie was being made featuring computer-animated LEGO characters, I thought at that time that we might have reached the bottom of the barrel in terms of trying to mine every last ounce of recognizable intellectual property from the universe just to help make another movie buck.

But then the movie won me over with its creativity, imagination and all things hilariously meta wrapped up in a colorful package as easily enjoyable to adults as it was to kids. So, when I first saw an ad for "Playmobil: The Movie," I initially had the same gut reaction but then remembered being pleasantly surprised while being proven completely wrong.

Alas, this offering -- while not a complete fiasco -- isn't "The LEGO Movie" even if most everything about it reeks of direct imitation (including musical numbers) and all-too-obvious, fingers crossed hopes that lightning could strike twice in terms of both box office figures and critical reception.

Yeah, that's not going to happen. While it might appeal to kids (or kids at heart) who adore their Playmobil toys, it's not likely to cross over to anyone else. In fact, I had to fight to stay awake in my otherwise completely empty theater, and had I dozed off I don't think I really would have missed anything or cared. Imitation might be the sincerest form of flattery, but the copy here isn't anywhere close to being as fun or funny as the LEGO offerings. This Playmobil version rates as a 3.5 out of 10.

Reviewed December 5, 2019 / Posted December 6, 2019

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