By Jack Dignan
Despite 2016 being a rather great year for animated movies, I wasn’t all that excited for Trolls. It wasn’t so much that it looked bad, but more so that didn’t look great. For the most part, the animated films this year have all been consistently great, and then there was Trolls, which looked fine, I guess. I wasn’t really paying attention to its publicity, as I just wasn’t super interested in it, and of course I knew I was going to see it. I went in with mixed feelings, and I guess I owe this film an apology. It’s every bit as toe tapping, happy and wonderful as Justin Timberlake’s ‘Can’t Stop The Feeling,’ which, for the record, is used extremely well in the movie.
Set in a far away, colourful world, Trolls live a happy and optimistic life, hugs a necessary component of every hour. Our protagonist is Princess Poppy (Anna Kendrick), who just wants the best for everyone in her kingdom, or at least it’s going to be her kingdom in the near future. That’s when the evil Bergens attack, taking a handful of Trolls back to their home town where they plan on eating them. Leading the Bergens is King Gristle (Christopher Mintz-Plasse), and so Poppy approaches the pessimistic Branch (Justin Timberlake) to help invade the village, rescue the Trolls and bring them back home. The odds are against them, but with songs to be sung, they go forth, attempting to bring their friends back.
Sometimes we all need to find our happy place, and that’s exactly what this film is about, and hopefully what it will inspire. It’s a joyful little movie that will leave you with a big smile planted firmly on your face. It’s bright and optimistic, and inspires happiness even in the darkest of times. Not even the biggest of grouches can come out of this movie feeling sad. It’s simply impossible, especially with its explosive and extremely entertaining finale that will certainly warm your heart. Throughout its entire 92-minute runtime, this film always manages to be a bundle of joy. Releasing this Thursday, just in time for school holidays, it’s a film the whole family is going to love.
The animation is so vibrant and alive, full of original visuals that are oddly reminiscent of so many things, but at the same time, they feel quite fresh. It’s no Pixar or Disney, that’s for sure. Nothing about the animation is going to blow you away, but for what it is, it’s sweet. It feels fluffy and innocent, flooding with creativity and wondrous patterns that will spark imagination in all of the kids who watch it. If you’ve ever seen or played the Rayman video game series, like I did many years ago, the visuals here reminded me of the visuals from that game, and yes, that is a very good thing as the art style in that franchise is sublime. They’re wacky and over the top, yet they fit right in.
Another thing I really liked about Trolls was the soundtrack, which combines together a series of original songs and a hybrid of certain classics. It’s a film that relies heavily on nostalgia, whether it be simply through the fact that it’s a film about the popular 80s toy, or that it contains numerous classic songs you won’t be able to resist humming along to. There’s a bunch of new renditions of old hits and not one of them fell flat. Even the original songs I found to be extremely welcoming, holding their own against the more well-known songs. The ‘Can’t Stop This Feeling’ sequence, as previously mentioned, is one of the best moments in the film, and the song, in the context of the movie at least, had a much bigger impact on me than all the others did.
The cast of Trolls is also rather large, and nobody is put to waste. Each character is distinctly different, and the supporting Trolls ended up being some of my favourite Trolls. The filmmakers were clearly given permission to go absolutely wild, and they did, and the result is a lot of fun. With a cast that includes Justin Timberlake, Anna Kendrick, Russell Brand, James Cordon, Gwen Stefani and so many others, you’d think there’d be a lose cannon here or there, but there isn’t. Nobody’s given screen time for the sake of being given screen time, and it never feels like they’re an actor recording lines in a studio. In fact, a lot of the cast are unrecognisable, and I had to look up on IMDb afterwards who was playing who, which is always a fun surprise.
For no matter how fun the movie itself is, unfortunately its flaws are very apparent. For starters, it’s about as predictable as it comes. I managed to call almost every single plot point right at the start of the movie. It’s also full of clichés, which I guess added to overall predictability of the film as you’ve seen a lot of plot elements a thousand times before. While it does have a simple story, the film has a tendency to over explain everything. Mostly provided through narration, it shoves all the facts in your face, presumably so kids don’t fall behind, but as an older-ish viewer, a little subtly would’ve been nice here and there.
To sum up, Trolls is a family friendly film that literally encourages you to be happy throughout, and it worked. I was. It’s a fun, vibrant and toe-tapping film with an astounding voice cast and excellent musical numbers, even if the film itself is generic and clichéd.
3 1/2 Stars