Dreamworks Animation certainly knows their audience and caters exclusively to them with “Trolls,” their latest unoriginal but colorful cartoon fiesta. Make no mistake, this is an animated movie that’s targeted specifically to the under 8 set, and there’s not much in the way of rich content for adults. The movie is bright and splashy and filled with a couple of catchy original tunes (as well as lame covers of several 80s pop songs), but for every bright moment there’s also junk like a character who farts out glitter, trolls using their hair as a weapon, and plenty of modern lingo sass talking (“oh snap!,” and “solid burn!“).
Optimistic, peppy and Pepto Bismol-colored troll Poppy (Anna Kendrick) teams up with frowny-faced, grumpy troll Branch (Justin Timberlake) and heads out on an adventure to rescue her troll pals after an evil Bergen (the natural enemy of the troll) kidnaps a significant portion of the village in hopes of feasting on them at a lavish banquet. That’s it; that’s the entire plot of the movie. The paper thin script feels cheap and crummy, and even your youngest toddler can probably guess the outcome of this heroic odd couple tale. There’s not much story at all, just a lot of jolly musical numbers and brief introductions to random rainbow-hued characters.
This movie was obviously edited for those with very, very short attention spans. It jumps around quickly and foolishly, and even the mildly amusing musical numbers feel as if they have been cut short to appeal with those who can’t sit still for more than two minutes at a time. At least most of the kids in my audience seemed engaged with the story, but you really don’t have to pay close attention to follow along.
What shocked me the most is the fact that there’s quite a bit of wasted Hollywood voice talent, with the big personalities of James Corden, Russell Brand and Jeffrey Tambor fading away with very minor background roles. Some of these actors have less than a half page of dialogue in the entire movie. Kendrick and Timberlake do a fine job voicing the leads, but I would’ve loved to see more from Tambor and Corden in particular. The actors playing Bergens (Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Zooey Deschanel, Christine Baranski, and John Cleese) have much more screen time, and they all are quite enjoyable.
“Trolls” isn’t particularly well animated, it’s instantly forgettable, and it’s not even very funny, but the film as a whole is entertaining enough. There’s a decent message of loyalty, friendship and finding your own happiness within. It’s harmless and will most likely please the average moviegoing family who will undoubtedly buy a ticket.
Despite all its flaws, the movie made me feel happy and had me cheerfully dancing my way out of the theater: and there’s much to appreciate about that.
I am both surprised and pleased to report that “Trolls” is not terrible. In fact, it’s quite watchable. This puts it ahead of virtually every animated movie of 2016 (except for the wonderful “Kubo and the Two Strings“).
The titular trolls live in a tree. The tree is in the middle of a town populated by Bergens, a miserable race that is convinced that the only way they can be happy is by eating trolls, who are perpetually so. When the trolls leave the tree to escape the perpetual threat of the Bergens, they become hunted and Chef, the meanest of the Bergens, tracks them down and kidnaps several of the trolls. Perpetually peppy troll Princess Poppy (Anna Kendrick) feels responsible and, together with the practical but lonely Branch (Justin Timberlake), travel to Bergen town to rescue the taken trolls. Along the way, they meet a batch of colorful characters and help spread cheer.
Not everything in “Trolls” works. There are plenty of overused cliches that are the cinematic substitute for creative thought (why does every recent kids movie have to feature at least one moment of a character getting startled and defecating in surprise? Why is that so funny to people?). There are characters whose sole purpose seems to be making comments like “oh, snap!” And some jokes are repeated so often that they wear quickly out their welcome. All of that being said, there’s enough of a story here to sustain momentum as the characters move between musical dance numbers which are, for the most part, entertaining. The animation (which, while not stop motion, looks like it takes its visual cues from the Laika films) is inventive, bright, and textured. And the message — one of acceptance and the importance of finding joy in your life — is certainly one we can all get behind.
If you’re looking for a colorful, joyful and music-filled movie to entertain your kids that will not leave you bored, you could do worse than “Trolls.”