While Pixar remains the King of animated movies and other companies like Aardman and Laika have really developed a reputation for can’t miss releases, DreamWorks Animation has steadily proved they are more than just pop culture gags and kiddie fare.
However, when it comes to their new movie Trolls, DreamWorks leaves a bit to be desired. While DreamWorks has been on a tear over the last decade, with amazing movies like Rise of the Guardians, The Croods, and both the Kung Fu Panda and How to Train Your Dragon series, Trolls is more like their 2015 release Home, but even more lacking.
Based on the toys that were originally created in 1959 and were extremely popular in America in the ’90s, Trolls tells the story of the mythical creatures with big hair that many people of a certain age used to stick on their pencils while kids in school.
The story is pretty simple. There is a group of creatures called the Bergens, which are uglier and grumpier versions of Shrek. The Bergens learned that the only thing that made them happy was the feeling they got when they ate a Troll. This is because Trolls are always happy and one even shoots glitter – out of his butt.
The Trolls are kept in a tree in the middle of Bergen village and the creatures eat them every year. When the movie starts, the King is preparing his son Prince Gristle Jr. for his first meal of a Troll ever. However, the Trolls escaped before this and Prince Gristle never got to eat a Troll. His father simply tells him that means he will never, ever, be happy again.
Cut to 20 years later and the Trolls all live together in a village in the woods. They are always happy, sing all the time, and hug on a scheduled basis. They are led by Poppy, the princess whose father rescued them all. The only Troll who doesn’t partake in the continuous party is Branch, a survivalist Troll who believes they are in danger of the Bergen finding them at any time.
Branch is right. After a party that Poppy throws is too loud and bright, the former Bergen Chef who was banished after the Trolls escaped sees them and captures a handful of Poppy’s closest friends. She uses the Trolls to get back into the village and then they plan to feed the Prince his first Troll and start the former ritual all over again.
It is up to Poppy and Branch to save their friends and stop the Bergen from eating Trolls once again.
First of all, the movie is a musical. This looks to be one of two animated musicals coming out this year, with Sing as the other. However, this one is more like the 2016 animated release Strange Magic, which was a horrendous movie. This one is better than that, so there is that.
However, the fact is that the movie was so lightweight and silly that it never really worked and the story was just not good enough to carry it to the full running time. Too much time was spent with musical numbers that just were played for goofiness. The best moments were simply eye-rolling moments.
There was also a love story in the Bergens village that tied into the final conclusion of the movie. It was silly and contrived, but it worked I suppose.
When a person my age goes to an animated movie, the film has to really be an entertaining experience for adults and kids to really catch my attention. That makes it important to see with kids, and I luckily have a seven-year-old son that sees these movies with me.
While I was rolling my eyes and shuffling in my seat waiting for the film to end, I looked over at my son. There was a moment in the film where all the Trolls were in a pot and the Bergens were preparing to eat them. Poppy had just realized that her enthusiasm and excitement to save them and see the best in everything had doomed them all to death.
All the Trolls look at Poppy as the best of them. However, Poppy lost her bright pink color when she realized she had failed them and turned the same shade of gray that Branch had been the entire movie. Then, every Troll lost their colors and turned gray as they all lost hope and fell into a deep depression.
My son, and my wife as I later learned, both teared up. Both felt the hopelessness and despair of the Trolls. My wife suffers from depression and anxiety issues and my son has the same chemical imbalance in his brain as well. That so affected both of them that they started to break down.
Both my wife and son liked the movie better than I did because they understood the underlying theme of depression vs. joy that I missed because I didn’t relate to that aspect of the storyline. It is always important to see what themes in the movie you might have missed and this instance made me less harsh on this movie than I otherwise would have been.
With that said, the big selling points here for everyone else is the look of the movie and the music. The design of the animation was strange. Poppy is a scrapbooker, so there were times where the animation changed to a scrapbook look and those sometimes popped up out of nowhere.
The colors were vibrant and the magical world of the Trolls, as well as the bugs, snakes, and other wildlife from their point of view, were also colorful and bright. The look should make kids very happy to watch.
The music was catchy but the lyrics were often eye-rolling and the song choices were used for goofy humor. Both Anna Kendrick and Justin Timberlake have great voices so it was nice to listen to. I am not a huge fan of animated musicals like this but it should be fine for those who like it.
At the end of the day, Trolls was a completely forgettable film that has themes that should touch some people and humor that will make most people just shake their head and move on to the next animated film on the slate.