Monday, November 14, 2016

Movie Review: Trolls

Directed by: Walt Dohrn & Mike Mitchell. 
Written by: Jonathan Aibel & Glenn Berger and Erica Rivinoja based on the Good Luck Trolls created by Thomas Dam. 
Starring: Anna Kendrick (Poppy), Justin Timberlake (Branch), Zooey Deschanel (Bridget), Christopher Mintz-Plasse (King Gristle0, Christine Baranski (Chef), Russell Brand (Creek), Gwen Stefani (DJ Suki), John Cleese (King Gristle Sr.), James Corden (Biggie), Jeffrey Tambor (King Peppy), Ron Funches (Cooper), Aino Jawo (Satin), Caroline Hjelt (Chenille), Kunal Nayyar (Guy Diamond), Quvenzhan√© Wallis (Harper). 

Before I begin my review of Trolls, let me acknowledge the obvious and say that the film is quite clearly a cynical exercise in brand extension – a way to get Dreamworks animation and the troll doll company more revenue than simply selling movie tickets – because there is now a line of toys and everything else kids will want (a trip to Wal-Mart after the movie with my five-year-old confirms this). I know that. I also know that Trolls is the type of animated kids’ movie that normally I don’t like – it’s brightly colored, loud, fast-paced and frenetic in a way that often gives me headaches when I see it in kids films. Its message is both obvious, and yet I’m not sure is entirely thought through. Had I seen this film say 6 years ago, I may well have loathed it. Seeing it sitting next to my five year old though – who was completely into the film, so much that at the end she even got up and danced along with the trolls – I have to admit it – the film won me over.
As the title implies, the film is about trolls – specifically, trolls that look like those annoying troll dolls that for some reason have been popular for years and years. 20 years ago, this specific group of trolls escaped from the tree where they were held by the Bergens – a much bigger species, who looks more like what I envision trolls to look like, rather than the cute ones who are our heroes, but I digress. Once a year, the Bergens eat the trolls of Trollstice – and the Bergens believe this is the only way to be happy. When news of the escape breaks to the Bergens, they expel their Chef (Christine Baranski) whose job it was to keep them. All these years later, the trolls live in peace and harmony – doing nothing all day except for singing and dancing – unless it’s time to break for their hourly hug time. You see where this is going – Princess Poppy (Anna Kendrick), decides to hold the biggest, brightest, loudest party ever – the chef finds them, and kidnaps some of the trolls. Princess Poppy is determined to get them back – and ends up alongside Branch (Justin Timberlake) – the only troll who hates singing, dancing and hugs – but knows a lot about Bergens.
The plot is perhaps too complicated – there are double crosses, and mistaken identifies – and a whole one involving the King of the Bergens (Christopher Mintz-Plasse), and a scullery maid who is in love with him (Zooey Deschanel), and various degrees of deception, etc. The film works best when it jettisons all that aside, and is just a pure, fun, entertaining musical. On that level, Anna Kendrick is perfectly cast as Poppy – perky in the extreme at all times, but never more some than when she’s singing jukebox versions of classic dance songs in full Pitch Perfect mode. And we all know that the film doesn’t have Justin Timberlake as Branch to have him not sing – and when he does, he’s fun to see to.
The film is rather and fast paced – and last only 90 minutes – which is good, because anymore and the film couldn’t sustain its sugar high. It isn’t a good film per se – and I don’t think I would want to see it more than once (which doesn’t seem to be an option, since my five year old has already seen it twice – she saw it at a birthday party opening weekend, and insisted on taking me the second weekend, because she didn’t want me to miss it – and she loved it both times). But for parents looking for a relatively pain free 90 minute activity with their kids, Trolls does the job. If that sounds like I’m damning the movie with faint praise, maybe I am – but I will say that for 90 minutes, I had fun. What more really did you expect from Trolls?

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