Grade: C+/B-
Rated: PG
Animation

Given the success of the Lego movies, one thing that’s surprising about Playmobil going Hollywood is that it took them so long. The other thing is that there aren’t any Native Americans or knights in this film, and those were among the very first Playmobil sets.   But hey, Ancient Rome is here, and so are Playmobil pirates, cowboys, Vikings, spies, robots, a T-Rex, and a food truck operator.

Yep, it’s pretty random, and while the fun lies in seeing these Playmobil sets come alive on the big screen, Playmobil: The Movie can feel a bit like a screenwriter’s challenge: see how many different Playmobil sets you can jam into a single film. And while the Lego movies’ bread and butter was pop culture allusions and verbal humor, this Playmobil film relies more heavily on sight gags.

As a result, it can feel more like a film aimed at children than adults—but this film for children has secret agent Rex Dasher (Daniel Radcliffe) sipping a martini that’s shaken, not stirred. It also features people being drugged or roofied, a kick to the groin, bales of pink hay that feel like an allusion to marijuana bales. And there are battles where swordplay and fisticuffs and explosions up the ante from children’s typical pretend play of knocking figures down with rubber bands or Nerf guns.

Taking a page from Lego, the screenwriters open and end the film with a live-action sequence. Young Charlie (Gabriel Bateman) is totally into his Playmobil figures but also enjoys having fun with his sister. That all ends when their parents are killed in a car accident (a page ripped from the Disney playbook) and older sister Marla (Anya Taylor-Joy) turns adult and stops spending brother-sister time with Charlie (Gabriel Bateman). When he runs away to a toy expo and she catches up with him at the Playmobil exhibit, he places his own favorite Viking figure in the diorama and suddenly both of them are beamed into a Playmobil world—shades of the new Jumanji. It’s there that they have adventures that basically consist of one or both of them being in danger and the other combining forces with various Playmobil characters to save the day.

Adults will have wished for a more complex plot, and Playmobil: The Movie is not as funny as it could have been. Still, it’s fun seeing those familiar toy figures come to life in a lavish film setting. The Vikings and Romans are particularly striking. The action is also nonstop, and that combined with the colorful array of figures ought to make this film a hit with younger viewers and provide moments of amusement for the adults that are asked to watch alongside them. And the voice talents do a nice job of getting into character and really having fun. Jim Gaffigan plays Del, the food truck driver who ends up becoming besties with Marla; Adam Lambert plays Emperor Maximus, who looks like a red-haired and bearded version of Nero; Kenan Thompson plays the pirate captain Bloodbones; and Meghan Trainor turns up as a Fairy Godmother.

Some of the allusions are fun, as when Marla and a robot evoke C-3PO and R2-D2, while others start to push the allusion envelope to where it just starts to seem like an unimaginative crutch to lean on—as when we see an alien crime lord named Glinara that has the body of Jabba the Hutt and the face of Monsters, Inc.’s Roz with a punk hairdo.

Children will like this, but I can’t imagine too many adults playing along. The plot is action-heavy but lacking complexity, and there are too many comedy droughts and far too many of those allusions that start to feel like rip-offs because of their frequency or the length that the bits go on.

But for Family Home Movie Night? There are worse choices you could make. If you have younger children, Playmobil: The Movie ought to make for a fun night. It’s rated PG for action peril and some language, so it’s a relatively tame one.

Entire family: Yes
Run time: 100 min., Color
Studio/distributor: Universal
Aspect ratio: 2.39:1
Featured audio: Dolby Digital 5.1
Bonus features: n/a
Trailer
Amazon link