Trolls has managed a lot of buzz based on the popularity of the Justin Timberlake song (and the fact that he stars), and the pure sugary, shiny wonder that is inherent in a decades old, and inexplicable, toy.
It’s the kind of film that creates its own good press simply by drenching itself in the armor of happiness run wild and a furiously pastel color scheme.
The story revolves around a group of Trolls, who want nothing more than to sing and dance the day way, and the effort to rescue part of the group after they are kidnapped by Bergens, troll-like (but not Troll-like, oddly enough) creatures who believe that happiness only comes from eating Trolls.
Poppy (Anna Kendrick), soon-to-be queen of the Trolls, has to undertake the impossible adventure of rescuing her friends, and she is forced to bring Branch (Timberlake), the one Troll with a serious side, who has been arguing that just this sort of thing was bound to happen.
There’s a lot to love for the youngest of audiences, who are bound to want to watch it endlessly, but that isn’t true for the reasons audiences have becomed used to over the last decade or more, during which animated films have become a realm of solid storytelling. Trolls defines formulaic, and seems to make no apology about the fact, preferring to shoot glitter at everything, literally and figuratively.
It feels like the first animated film in quite a while that has abandoned the advantage of the genre’s wildly long production schedule by not bothering to rethink, or think, about much of anything. The Trolls feel rather lifeless, apart from their ability to run a gag, and things pop up that seem connected to nothing, least of all the world being created. A living cloud pops into things for no reason, apparently the result of a drunken bet between producers, and several others exist only to deliver a line or two because that’s how you sell more toys.
That said, there is a mix of fun and adventure that will have kids on board with whatever zany antics we might want to throw together. The musical aspect of the film shows up in odd ways and and odd times, but that doesn’t mean it won’t have the younger crowds singing. Even the Bergens, except one, are made cute, which probably causes some childhood confusion when it comes to their desire to eat Trolls, but they turn out to not be such bad folk after all. That’s hopefully a little confusing.
The film ultimately falls apart because everything is put together so simplistically, and with only an attention to bright colors and a few laughs. We know kids will love it, because we’ve pieced together bits that tested really well in focus groups, but they’ll never mention the story. Even if they do, it’s a stretch to think they’ll be able to relate anything to their lives, because that story has to start with translating eating Trolls into something. It’s so silly, straightforward, and outlandish that it bypasses themes, which is clearly by design. This is a movie that serves as a bit of fun, and will produce some sparkly T-shirts, which means it managed to deliver all the potential it had.