UK Release Date: 21st October 2016
Runtime: 92 minutes
Director: Mike Mitchell, Walt Dohrn
Writer: Jonathan Aibel, Glenn Berger
Starring: Anna Kendrick, Justin Timberlake, Zooey Deschanel, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Christine Baranski, Russell Brand, James Corden, Jeffrey Tambor
Synopsis: The happiest creatures in the world, Trolls, find their lives threatened after years of successfully hiding from the miserable Bergen, who can only be happy if they eat trolls.
We live in an era of immensely sophisticated movies for kids. From the complex tolerance allegory of Zootropolis to the acceptance of grief at the heart of Kubo and the Two Strings, many of 2016’s biggest animated hits have been emotionally mature at their core. This is a great thing, but it doesn’t mean that there isn’t room for animated cinema that simply cranks up the volume and chucks E-numbers at the screen in order to provoke one enormous sugar rush. That’s what new DreamWorks tale Trolls does, taking very loose inspiration indeed from the iconic toys and fashioning a story of hugs, laughter and lots of irritatingly brilliant pop music.
Princess Poppy (Anna Kendrick) and her father, King Peppy (Jeffrey Tambor), lead the trolls – the happiest creatures on Earth. They have successfully hidden away from the Bergen, who are miserable until they gain happiness by eating trolls, for years. A particularly loud party, though, alerts the Bergen’s chef (Christine Baranski) to their hiding place. She kidnaps a number of trolls and takes them back to Prince Gristle (Christopher Mintz-Plasse), who is determined to experience happiness. Poppy teams up with reluctant survivalist troll Branch (Justin Timberlake) to rescue her friends.
Trolls, after a pretty dark year in the news, is just what the doctor ordered. It’s a joyous glimpse into a world where there is nothing but cuddles and rainbows, soundtracked with entertaining, stylised renditions of catchy pop hits. It’s a film that is all about smiles rather than narrative complexity and it wears that on its sleeve from start to finish. There’s none of the examination of sadness that made Inside Out such an instant classic, but that doesn’t matter because Trolls knows exactly what it is.
Anna Kendrick is wonderful in the lead role as hyperactive Poppy, who regularly leads her troll buddies in raucous song and dance numbers. She finds her perfect counterpoint in Justin Timberlake’s curmudgeonly Branch, who unlike other trolls does not partake in music and festivities. Their interactions throughout the film provide many of its biggest laughs and also surprising bursts of emotion, including a heart-breaking rendition of Cyndi Lauper’s ‘True Colours’ that doesn’t so much make audiences cry as it does drag the tears out of their bodies with shameless sentimentality.
The supporting performances, too, are very well-pitched. Christine Baranski is a genuinely hissable villain and Christopher Mintz-Plasse has had years to hone his whiny child shtick. Most impressive, though, is Zooey Deschanel as the scullery maid obsessed with Mintz-Plasse’s prince – for some reason. Deschanel’s rendition of Lionel Ritchie’s ‘Hello’ is brilliant and her tentative portrayal of the character is one of the best aspects of Trolls. Equally fun is Russell Brand, who neatly sends-up his own “messiah” persona as a meditative, hippy troll who earns Poppy’s affections with his relentlessly positive outlook.
There’s no hiding the message espoused by Trolls, that everyone has the capacity to be happy, because the film spells it out every couple of scenes. There’s no subtley here, but it’s tough to care about subtlety when that relentless earworm of a Timberlake song is playing. After a downbeat 2016, Trolls might be just enough to help you forget for a couple of hours that loads of your favourite celebrities are no longer with us, Britain is leaving the EU and Donald Trump is going to be the most powerful man in the world.
Pop or Poop?
It ain’t big and it certainly ain’t clever, but Trolls is one of the year’s most entertaining animated movies. It’s a pure jolt of positivity that reminds you of the power of simply painting a smile across your face and remembering the things that make life fun. The musical sequences will stick with you and Anna Kendrick’s endless charm ensures that it’s impossible not to leave the cinema wearing a big, toothy grin.
Do you agree with my review? Let me know in the comments section.