I don’t know if you remember Troll Dolls – a certain generation ago, they were monstrously ugly toys with daft hair that I never understand why anyone in their right mind would choose to own. They faded away a while back, but they’re now back in a feature film – Dreamworks’ Trolls brings them to the big screen in an animated adventure. There is some fun in Trolls, but on the whole, it’s wonderfully underwhelming – kids will love it, but there’s not but there for anyone else.
Long ago, the Bergens would eat Trolls once a year in order to find happiness – a practice known as Trollstice, which was ended when the Trolls escaped. Many years later, the villainous Chef (Christine Baranski) finds the new Troll Village and takes many of the inhabitants. Poppy (Anna Kendrick), the happiest Troll ever born, teams up with the overly-cautious and curmudgeonly Branch (Justin Timberlake) on a mission to go and rescue the Trolls. Their mission is full of adventure and mishaps, as the mismatched duo try to tolerate each other long enough to get the job done, but they soon learn that they may have more in common than they think.
There’s a final sentence that you’ve heard in almost every summary of an animated film ever, and this movie is just like every animated film ever. It follows many of the same beats, but less so than many – it is a movie that is definitely for kids, and lacks little for anyone else. There is humour, and the visual style is a treat, but it lacks any real substance. The movie’s mandatory message is about the nature of happiness, but there is too little groundwork laid, meaning that it can’t hit the emotional heights it wants to.
Anna Kendrick and Justin Timberlake do a serviceable job as the lead characters, with the real star being Baranski’s sinister chef – she is the only character that actually seems fleshed out a little bit, rather than simply an extension of their voice actors. The movie is padded with famous voices, and it becomes quite distracting trying to figure out who they are – when you get it, that’s all there is. One of the Trolls is meant to be a sort-of wise guy, spiritual type, but you don’t think that – you just think that it’s Russell Brand, or whoever else.
If you’re going to watch Trolls, you need to know that it is an animated musical more than anything else, shoehorning in tons of them (both cover versions and original tunes) to the extent I found it was becoming annoying. They sing all the time to show their happiness, so the story goes, but it’s quite off-putting fairly quickly. You get the feeling that the idea here was to excite young kids and be able to shift a load of tie-in CDs on the back of it – it’s a shame the movie didn’t give up some of the songs and focus a bit more on plot. There is one exception – Branch refuses to sing, and you know it’ll happen. The scene in which is does is the film’s one heart-warming moment.
Trolls is fun if not much else, and it won’t stay with you long after you leave the cinema (unless you’re searching for a barrage of songs masquerading as a movie). It’s not the cynical cash-in that it could have been, which is a plus, but it settles at that. For an audience treated to animated films that engage their heads and their hearts, Trolls will be a disappointment.
Director: Walt Dohrn, Mike Mitchell
Cast: Anna Kendrick (Poppy), Justin Timberlake (Branch), Zooey Deschanel (Bridget), Christopher Mintz-Plasse (King Gristle), Christine Baranski (Chef), Russel Brand (Creek)
Running Time: 92 Mins
Image credit: http://www.fandango.com/trolls_159278/movieoverview