‘Trolls’ Sparkles And Glitters Its Way Through A Stock Animated Adventure (Movie Review)

trolls posterSometimes it is necessary to expect a level entertainment that simply does not work for you. Trolls is essentially fine in providing an assortment of colors and music to keep its intended audience (younglings) thrilled for a majority of the screentime. There is a message at its core, the voice actors all seem game, the visuals are sometimes a trip and I would even say an attempt is made to provide some little jokes for the adults. The degrees in which I would speak to the effectiveness of these elements, however, only go so far in a film that feels like it arrived from a candy factory.


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No, this not a film about candy, but the film is almost irritatingly saccharine in a way that could practically rot your teeth. That is made abundantly clear in the film’s opening minutes, which sets up a plot about how Trolls are small creatures that love singing, dancing and hugging. They also happen to be the delicious treat of choice for the Bergen, large and monstrous creatures with a ceremony devoted to the digestion of Trolls.

This ordeal leads to the Trolls leaving their home (a giant tree in the middle of BergenLand) and taking refuge elsewhere. Why this idea was not thought of much earlier, I’m not sure. Sure enough, the Bergen eventually find some Trolls in the wild, leading to the always effervescent Princess Poppy (voiced by Anna Kendrick) taking on a mission to save them. Naturally she is joined by Branch (Justin Timberlake), the grumpiest and gloomiest of all the Trolls.

Making an animated-musical-buddy-comedy based on a toy doll series that has been around since the 60s essentially means getting the chance to make whatever story you want. As a DreamWorks feature with an eye on adding folks who can sing and be silly, it is no surprise that Trolls is not exactly trying to capture the emotional sentiment and excitement found in Kung Fu Panda or How to Train Your Dragon. Instead, the film plays things quite broad, with some more obvious attempts to evoke a sense of drama (or as Trolls most likely call it: Sad Cry Teary Time) when the plot calls for it. These moments do not necessarily strive to be all that heavy and it rarely takes away from the colorful journey Trolls wants to be.

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As mentioned, this film has a game voice cast. In addition to Kendrick and Timberlake, Zooey Deschanel, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Russell Brand, James Corden, Jeffrey Tambor, Christine Baranski and others make up this cast. As the film has no real desire other than to keep things goofy and lighthearted (aside from the minor dramatic stakes, as mentioned), it works to the degree that Trolls never really slows down. I can say my entire body essentially sighed early on in the film, as there was a bit of a struggle to let the tone of this thing really sink in. However, once the film got going, it got a bit easier to roll with.

Part of that has to do with accepting the visuals. The film is incredibly colorful and finds ways to be unique. While Smurfs comparisons are warranted, the film does do what it can to bring Trolls “to life” and allow for the universe of this film to have its own kind of personality. This means allowing Trolls to occupy its own happy place, as they love to do. The best example is in the film’s key musical sequence, where Poppy sings “Get Back Up Again,” while facing increasingly ridiculous dangers. It shows the level of imagination that comes from stringing together some clever ideas to make key scenes in a Trolls movie really work.

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Speaking of the music, there is a lot of singing and dancing in this movie. Some of it surrounds original songs, but more than enough of the soundtrack is made up of riffs on party favorites. Timberlake, unsurprisingly, serves as the executive producer on the film’s soundtrack and you certainly can’t say Trolls doesn’t try to please the kids. Some of the joy for adults actually comes from recognizing what the film is doing with certain tracks. It only goes so far, as far as the joy for non-toddlers is concerned, but you take what you can get.

Trolls does what most should basically expect. I was not a fan of the experience, but I can’t deny its plea for cheeriness either. Given the year of animated films we’ve had and the general joy I’ve gotten from many of them, it’s not as if I’m a stone to these kinds of movies, but I know the ones I like. Yes, there’s singing, dancing and even a little creativity, but I can’t say I was all that delighted by the results. It was a thing with enough candy-coating that is sure to give kids (and devoted Trolls collectors) joy. There’s also the message of being happy with who you are. It’s all simple stuff, but surely some have a larger sense of joy for this particular effort.

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