After sporadic bursts of popularity in the 60’s, 70’s, 80’s and 90’s the hideous Trolls are back. Having undergone something of a cosmetic makeover they star in an almost original musical adventure from the makers of Shrek.
I don’t know about you but I never saw the big deal with Troll dolls. They were ugly, were in no way poseable and strands of their hair would eventually got everywhere. With no overarching mythology to draw upon (like Michael Bay’s Transformers movies) Dreamworks Animation have opted to go with for a brand new story, one that flirts with classic tropes in a similar way as Shrek did but in a less successful manner.
Playing of the reputation of the Trolls, the movie casts them as sickeningly sweet, happy creatures who love nothing more than to dance, sing, hug and… well that’s it really. the movie even mocks them for this.
Princess Poppy (Anna Kendrick) of the Trolls, plans to throw the biggest, loudest, craziest party of all time to celebrate the 20 year anniversary of the Trolls liberation from the nasty Bergen. The Bergen, who tower over the diminutive Trolls, used to eat them believing that it’s was only thing that could bring them true happiness. Despite the warnings of Branch (Justin Timberlake), the grumpiest Troll in the village, Poppy throws her party and promptly attracts the attention of the former head chef of the Bergen. With Poppy’s friends captured and destined for the Bergen’s dinner menu it’s up to the woefully naive, offensively optimistic Poppy and the grouchy, pessimistic Branch to team up and rescue them.
Can Stop The Feeling?
To be fair to the source material (or lack thereof) Trolls does make a decent stab at an entertaining reinvention of the horrid little oiks. They look more appealing and the audience can easily empathise with Branch’s disgust at the wilful obliviousness of the rest of the Trolls. Predictably enough over the course of their adventure, Branch does learn to let some light into his life again. Less expected is tat Poppy also learns that “scrapbooking”, glitter and thinking happy thoughts can’t solve every problem. It’s a neat two-handed message but the rest of the film’s not quite enjoyable enough to sustain it.
The standard rescue narrative does take some charming diversions along the way. The most noticeable detour is into Bergen dating, as the Trolls end up providing dating advice to the lovelorn Bergen scullery maid Dolores (Zoey Deschanel). Despite its best efforts however Trolls doesn’t quite manage to be as witty, clever or inventive as the previous animated movies of 2016 like Finding Dory, Kung Fu Panda 3, Kubo and the 2 Strings or The The Angry Birds Movie.
Don’t feed the Trolls
While it boasts a stellar cast including turns from comedy legends John Cleese and Jeffrey Tambor, this can sometimes work against the film. Apart from the odd moment here or there Poppy’s friends quickly become part of the background. James Cordon’s smattering of lines feels tacked on and I don’t recall hearing Gwen Stefani’s voice at all. You know the filmmakers have resorted to lazy casting when they cast Russell Brand to turn up as a hippy, drippy, spiritual Troll.
Most recent animated films have cut back on the musical numbers, however Trolls bucks this trend by cramming in more musical numbers than Frozen! When Justin Timberlake not only stars in your film but acts as executive music producer this might be expected, but with few little original music and plenty of short cover versions, at times it can feel like listening to Justin’s favourite all-decades mix tape. There are some good musical gags but some sequences can be a little too obvious such as when all the Bergen sing Gorillaz’s “Clint Eastwood” to underscore their sadness.
With its bright colourful aesthetic and non-stop musical numbers Trolls will probably keep kids entertained but there’s little here for adults. Inoffensive fleeting fun for kids.
Starring: Anna Kendrick, Justin Timberlake, Zooey Deschanel, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Christine Baranski, Russell Brand, Gwen Stefani, John Cleese, James Corden, Ron Funches
Directed by: Walt Dohrn, Mike Mitchell
Official Site here.