All photos courtesy of DreamWorks Animation
In the months leading up to the release of DreamWorks Animation’s TROLLS, the movie’s stars, Anna Kendrick and Justin Timberlake were front and center, amping up the animated feature at Comic-Con and performing a stirring rendition of “True Colors” at Cannes. The latter left an emotional and, as shown in a clip later released, it proved to be a song in the key emotional point in the movie that gave hope that maybe — just maybe — Trolls could match the heft and gravitas of a Pixar film, which has set the gold-standard when it comes to creating viable, progressive animated features suitable for kids as much as adults. Although vivid in color and warm & fuzzy with its sweet intent, this adaptation of Thomas Dam’s iconic troll dolls is generic and boringly predictable.
In Trolls directors Mike Mitchell and Walt Dohrn create a fully realized world dressed with Fiber Art textures of felts, velvet, macramé, and material reminiscent of arts and crafts time at summer camp. In this bold and imaginative land live the titular always-happy trolls — and they come in all shapes, sizes, and colors. Their daily agenda consists of singing, dancing, and hugging on the hour every hour.
On the flipside of this are a group of Debbie downers known as the Bergens who claim to be happy only when they eat a troll on a special day called “Troll Solstice.” After the Bergens invade Troll Village and kidnap a handful of trolls to dine on, the overly optimistic princess-to-be Poppy (Kendrick) and the village’s Doomsday curmudgeon Branch (Justin Timberlake) set off on a journey to rescue her friends. Along the way, they stumble upon some obstacles including the evil chef (Christine Baranski) who is hellbent on having the most lavish troll feast as well as the clueless child-king of the Bergens, King Gristle (Christopher Mintz-Plasse). But the trolls do find an ally in the softspoken and sweet resident housemaid Bridget (Zooey Deschanel), who happens to has a crush on Gristle and is willing to help the trolls if they help her get the man.
The elements of a Shrek-worthy movie are present, but none of it is strong enough to make it a stellar movie. Even so, Trolls is not a failure in its message of “find happiness within you.” The moral of the story is clear as day and it’s a mantra for both kids and adults to live by. The problem is the execution of the message. There’s no emotional connection or layered character attributes that stick and therefore it leaves the audience with a shell of a good animated feature.
Despite all the felt-laden decor, peripheral voice cast (James Corden, Gwen Stefani, John Cleese, Russell Brand), and very impressive tactile animation, the movie is half-baked and basic. Besides planting an earwig of “True Colors” in your head, there’s nothing else that sticks.
The movie seemed like an excuse to have Kendrick sing on-screen again and a chance for Timberlake to test out his skills as an executive music producer and to promote his latest single “Can’t Stop the Feeling.” The N*sync alum curated a fine set of songs from the ’60s, ’70s an ’80s — and four originals — for the movie that were rearranged and sung by himself, Kendrick, Stefani, and Ariana Grande. Although it’s fun to listen to, the songs are shoehorned into the narrative, making the jukebox musical approach feel like the movie is trying too hard.
Without a doubt, Trolls marks off all the checkboxes required of a feel-good family entertainment. It has bright colors, has adorable fantastical characters, upbeat music, fun dialogue, and a universal message that promotes well-being. It meets the very basic requirements of a template animated feature and for that, it’s perfectly fine. If you are looking beyond that, don’t hold your breath.
Running time: 92 minutes
Dino watches too much TV, enjoys reality singing competitions and laughs inappropriately during dramatic films. He’s a fan of comedy, podcasts, and comedy podcasts. He’s a reformed comic book geek and thinks “The Goonies” is the best movie of all time. When he isn’t stuffing his face with a burrito, he’s thinking about his next trip to Disneyland.
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Dino-Ray Ramos | Staff Writer