You know those little dolls with the long hair that shot straight up? Those were the toll dolls (or action figures if you were a boy) and they’ve remained a staple for most children. Their small design and many options for clothing made them a hit and were probably more recognizable then Barbie as they were more fantasy-like then the regular dolls. I think I might have had one when I was six (I eventually found a naked troll sitting in a box of old toys I was donating to Goodwill), but they never had an impact on me like the toys of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles or Spider-Man.
I haven’t seen the troll toys in years, and only when DreamWorks Animation announced that they wanted to make a movie out of them that they came back in my mind. Like a lot of other movies based on toys (Transformers, G.I. Joe, Battleship), this is clearly a cash grab. Or at least I would have thought that until I saw The Lego Movie, which I still see as one of he great comedies of the decade. If the right people can get behind a product they have passion for, then maybe a Trolls movie could work.
In a fantasy world of some sort, the trolls are little creatures that live in a constant state of happiness, while the larger ogre-like beings, the Bergens, eat them as they have no happiness and think that doing so will give them that same feeling. After years of living in a tree where the Bergens hold an annual dinner feast, King Peppy (played by Jeffrey Tambor) leads the trolls to escape through underground tunnels. Cut to ten years later where King Peppy is about to step down and lead his daughter Princess Poppy (played by Anna Kendrick) into ascending the throne.
Poppy loves to lead the trolls into constant song and dance to ensure their happiness. Despite the overly upbeat attitudes of trolls like Creek (played by Russell Brand), Biggie (played by James Corden), and DJ Suki (played by Gwen Stefani), the one troll who hates the constant parties and hugs is Branch (played by Justin Timberlake). One day, a party that Poppy throws proves too loud as exiled Bergin, Chef (played by Christine Baranski) finds them and captures a good chunk of the little people, hoping to restart the tradition. Branch and Peppy go on a journey to rescue their friends and help to see if the Bergins can find happiness another way.
Based on this summery and the majority of the trailers, you would think that Trolls would be nothing more then cinematic junk food. While it is in some area, I was surprised by how much I liked this. Both Anna Kendrick and Justin Timberlake make for both a comedic team and a nice sounding duo when their required to sing. Speaking of which, the songs, with half being original and the other half being pop songs, are entertaining and seem to fit then context of the story when needed.
The animation is cool, as the whole thing looks like an arts and crafts world. This allows Trolls a look that’s totally it’s own thing. I rarely see that in a movie (Tron, Sin City, and 300 are some other examples) where you could identify it from one picture.
The story, while well meaning, is unfortunately clunky and follows the same road story that DreamWorks seems to be repeating all the time. It’s not that it’s bad, and the beginning and ending are nice; it’s just that a lot of the middle seem to have character reveals and emotional cues that seem to be of the benefit of the movie rather then what would have happened. The best thing about the plot, which I won’t spoil, does manage to make the Bergens sympathetic, as it would have been easy to make them standard villains. I can’t help but think that this was meant to be an analogy on anti-bullying.
I’ll give this three and a half troll dolls out of five. Trolls grew on me finding a happy place, even if it can feel forced. There are better things that your child could be watching from this year (Zootopia, Kubo and the Two Strings, Pete’s Dragon, Finding Dory), but this is harmless and I don’t see why not to see this if they want to. If Home was a failed attempt at a story just for kids, this serves as a better pass. Perhaps some parents that watch this might find a bit of happiness.