Movie Review: Trolls (2016)
“Find your happy place”
Director: Walt Dohrn, Mike Mitchell
Cast: Anna Kendrick, Justin Timberlake, Zooey Deschanel
Synopsis: The troll Princess Poppy determines to save her friends when they are kidnapped by the Bergens, who are only happy when eating trolls.
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Trolls are given something of a makeover in the latest animated feature from Dreamworks. Today, trolls are generally associated with pasty-skinned bullies who engage in twisted mind-games and belligerent abuse under the cloak of anonymity provided by the internet. Back in the ‘60s though, they were tiny doll figures with bug eyes, squashed noses and Don King hairdos. They were ugly little creatures, to be honest, but cute enough to appeal to kids. Now most of that ugliness has been eradicated by Dreamworks’ animators, turning the inhabitants of Troll village into lovable tykes you really, really, really want splashed all over your backpack and lunch box. That’s what Hasbro, the toy company behind the movie are hoping, anyway…
Trolls is fairly light on plot, but what little it has revolves around Princess Poppy (Anna Kendrick – Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates, The Accountant) and her multi-coloured clan of pathologically happy trolls having a simply wonderful time in Troll village where, safe from the predatory Bergens who can only experience happiness when chowing down on a juicy troll, they indulge in regular happy hug-ins. While cynical adult viewers might ponder upon the inherent problems associated with organised touchy-feely moments between those of different ages, very young members of the audience will no doubt be entranced by all the sticky-sweet happiness that passes before their eyes in a riot of radiant colours. Which is just as well, because there’s not a lot of plot in Trolls. Honestly, there isn’t…
Anyway, no state of equilibrium is allowed to persist indefinitely, even in a kid’s movie, so the trolls’ delirious happiness is dampened somewhat by the appearance of the Bergen chef (Christine Baranski – Addams Family Values), who stumbles upon them when the noise from a party gets out of hand and promptly scoops a good number into her bag to take to her king (Christopher Mintz-Plasse – This is the End, Kick-Ass 2), who has never experienced the pleasure of tonguing minced troll from between his teeth. Feeling responsible for alerting the chef to their whereabouts, Poppy decides that she must rescue all those who were taken, and immediately plans a rescue mission, into which she ropes reluctant sidekick, Branch (Justin Timberlake – Friends With Benefits, Runner Runner). Branch is the only troll with any sense, if you ask me; while everyone else was partying on down, he was stockpiling supplies in an underground bunker, ready for the day when the Bergens finally stumbled upon their little village. His common sense and pragmatic attitude might mean he’s the only monotone troll in Troll village, but at least he’s not trapped in a doggie bag like most of the rest of its residents.
The kindest thing you can say about Trolls is that it achieves its objective, which is to heighten public consciousness of the range of Hasbro toys in the run up to Christmas. This is, after all, exactly what a 90-minute advertisement should do. Trolls is hollow and lightweight, a confection of bright colours and overly cute but nondescript characters which delivers the message that happiness comes, not from material possessions, but from within – which rings a little hollow when one remembers who financed the movie. Perhaps it’s because Trolls is aimed squarely at kids and, unlike most animated movies, makes little effort to keep their parents entertained, that it feels so half-hearted. Apart from one original number from Timberlake, the soundtrack is full of popular songs sung by the cast. The plot is pedestrian, its treatment predictable, and there’s an overwhelming feeling of ‘that’ll do’ about it all. Trolls will probably entertain the under-sixes, but so will a rubber band in a cardboard box…
(Reviewed 8th November 2016)