Trolls World Tour Review

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Rating:

7/10

Cast:

Anna Kendrick as Poppy
Justin Timberlake as Branch
Rachel Bloom as Barb
James Corden as Biggie
Ron Funches as Cooper
Kelly Clarkson as Delta Dawn
Anderson .Paak as Prince D
Sam Rockwell as Hickory
George Clinton as King Quincy
Mary J. Blige as Queen Essence

Written by Jonathan Aibel, Glenn Berger, Maya Forbes, Wallace Wolodarsky, Elizabeth Tippet

Directed by Walt Dohm and David P. Smith

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Summary

Poppy and Branch discover that there are six different troll tribes scattered over six different lands. Each tribe is also devoted to six different kinds of music — funk, country, techno, classical, pop and rock. When rockers Queen Barb and King Thrash set out to destroy the other music, Poppy and Branch embark on a daring mission to unite the trolls and save the diverse melodies from becoming extinct.

What Worked:

Trolls World Tour feels like a trippy acid bender wrapped in cotton candy and pushed to the brink with a wild pop culture soundtrack bursting with classic (and not-so-classic) tunes. The songs are enjoyable, the animation superb; and the voice cast, consisting of Anna Kendrick, Justin Timberlake, James Cordon and Sam Rockwell (?) seem to relish the nonsense.

And that’s what this movie is: nonsense. Fluffy nonsense, but nonsense all the same. Adults might need a few glasses of wine to succumb to the insanity, but little ones will enjoy the wild, colorful shenanigans on display. At least mine did.

The story — something about a rock troll and the pick string of destiny — darts from beat to beat, stopping only occasionally to offer a slight reprieve before bouncing us to another wild set piece consisting of silly harmless humor and lots and lots of yelling. There’s a half-baked love story thrown in, in which Branch attempts to woo Poppy despite an inability to truly connect with her; and another side plot about Cooper setting off to find more creatures that look like him. I’ll let you guess how these storylines play out.

Of course, plot points are designed to set up big musical numbers. These trolls want to sing, dammit! And sing they do. Returning cast members Anna Kendrick and Justin Timberlake blaze through a number of songs, including a fun riff on Cyndi Lauper’s “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun, Marky Mark’s “Good Vibrations,” and a half dozen others.

Don’t worry. There are plenty of jokes too. My kids laughed when a troll gave birth to another miniature troll via its giant hair — don’t ask! — and roared at the bit where Mr. Dinkles, a little worm-like creature with one face expression, seemingly died and was inches from Heaven before another character pulled him back to the light.

Within the madness lies a unique commentary on music (hint: pop music sucks, country music is a downer, smooth jazz drives listeners to the brink of insanity, and rock music rocks) the filmmakers only partially explore, opting instead for the tried and true “it’s okay to be different” moral that inexplicably took five writers to crack. Surely, there was something more original these people could have come up with to challenge our youth.

I digress.

As a mild diversion for kids, Trolls World Tour gets the job done. The animation sparkles and the film darts about with energy to spare. With all the recent drama, who can argue against spending 90 minutes with characters who cuss using words like “sugar,” and combat problems with hugs?

What Doesn’t Work

Trolls World Tour is one of those animated flicks that will make parents really appreciate Pixar. (Watch Onward. Seriously.) Despite its gaudy visuals, these miniature toys have nothing unique to say or do because doing so would require taking some sort of risk. Instead, we’re left with a bland plot consisting of the type of moral conclusions typically reserved for a Saturday afternoon special, dull characters, and tired pop culture gags. (Who let the dogs out? Really?)

Directors Walt Dohrn and David P. Smith throw everything — jokes, songs, visual gags — at the screen, probably at the behest of the absurd number of producers, marketers and writers involved in the project, in the hopes something — a pop culture reference, a fart, a butt crack, anything — gleans a few laughs. Here is a film desperate to be loved by everyone, and so it will likely please no one save for the really young.

Snark aside, I say all this even as I understand Trolls World Tour is not a movie designed to cater to bitter old men like me. Trolls World Tour is a movie for kids. Really young kids. And hey, I get it. I grew up thinking Baby: Secret of the Lost Legend was the greatest film ever made, or at least on par with King Kong Lives. Kids don’t watch a movie like Trolls to unlock the secrets of their personal existentialism, kids watch these flicks because they’re bright and sparkly, loud and funny; and because the characters on screen occasionally burp or say something in a goofy voice.

No judgment. I watch football because (hillbilly voice) it looks real cool when they hit each other real hard like.

So, while the critic in me wants to write another thousand words on how our kids deserve better, the kid inside me screams, “Lighten up! It’s a Trolls movie based on a toy line. What did you expect? Oh, look! The face on that air balloon just made a funny face!”

The Bottom Line:

A dull plot and simpleminded humor keep Trolls World Tour from ever ascending beyond mildly engaging entertainment, but the pop-filled soundtrack and colorful animation should hold younger kids’ attention for an hour or so. Which is one less hour they’ll spend punching your face. Enjoy!