Saturday 24 December 2016

Film Review: Trolls

Based on those ugly ass dolls from the 80s, Trolls is the latest animation from Dreamworks that partners Anna Kendrick with Justin Timberlake for a colourful yet disposable time at the movies.

The solitude of a village of happy little trolls is threatened by hideous creatures called Bergens, and after a group of the trolls are kidnapped by a particularly evil Bergen, Princess Poppy (Kendrick) and the curmudgeonly Branch (Timberlake) must venture into enemy territory to save them.

Trolls is aiming a little younger than typical Dreamworks fare; this isn't up there with How to Train Your Dragon in terms of maturity or the Shrek series in terms of clever intertextuality that adults can appreciate. No, Trolls is a straight-up kids movie filled with all the colours of the rainbow and characters that literally fart glitter. I'm not kidding, one dude can literally shit sparkles and does so on multiple occasions.

Anywho, Trolls had the potential to be insufferable and thankfully it isn't. Sure, it doesn't have much of a plot but kids will most likely find the visuals enough to hold their attention. In fact, the plot is barely enough to populate a 30 minute Smurf cartoon from yesteryear so it makes sense that the filmmakers are scrabbling to find material during the second half. From multiple rescue attempts of different characters, a weird Cinderella parody and an odd love story between two of the Bergens, Trolls does tread water for a fair amount of time in order to get up to the 90 minute mark.

Kendrick really soars as the chipper Princess Poppy; her infectious eagerness for life is reflected in Kendrick's own offscreen persona so it works. On the flipside, her costar Timberlake doesn't really sell the grumpiness of Branch mostly because we also know him to be a bundle of joy offscreen too.

The voice cast also includes the likes of James Corden, Russell Brand, Kunal Nayyar, Zooey Deschanel, Christopher Mintz-Plasse and John Cleese. It's a weird bunch for sure.

It's hard to pin down why Trolls is such a weird movie. Maybe it's the opening scene that homages The Shining (set to 'In the Hall of the Mountain King'); maybe it's the storybook interludes that look like they're made out of felt and pipe cleaners; maybe it's the multitude of kooky animals and creatures that crawl of the forest like some kind of nightmarish mishmash of Dr Seuss and Art Attack; maybe it's the really strange tragic backstory that one character receives that shouldn't be funny but actually is really hilarious; or maybe it's the fact that it diverges away from the trolls for the second half and decides to tell a second love story involving Deschanel's monstrous Bergen creature (who at one point sings Lionel Ritchie's song 'Hello')

The Verdict: 5.5/10

I'm not going to like, I liked Trolls to a degree but I probably wouldn't recommend it to anyone who doesn't have kids they need to entertain for 90 minutes. The plot is very simplistic but there is enough visual wizardry and inventive creature design going on keep it chugging along, even when the songs doesn't pop like they should (except for the final Timberlake track that has been an earworm ALL DAMN YEAR). But don't covers of licensed tracks like 'September' by Earth Wind and Fire seem like a weird choice for a 2016 kids movie?

Trolls is in cinemas across Australia now

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