“Trolls” Review

I am sorry about the serious lateness of this review.  Believe me I do want to review this movie, but other things take priority.  To be honest, the thing I hate most about this movie is how bland it is.  Despite being marketed as “the happiest movie of the year” and boasting some of the most (literally) colorful animation in DreamWorks history, it managed to become yet another child-pandering mess.

Trolls is directed by Mike Mitchell and Walt Dohrn and written by: Erica Rivinoja, Jonathan Aibel, and Glenn Berger.  Stars-Anna Kendrick, Justin Timberlake, Zooey Deshanel, Russell Brand, Christine Baranski, and Gwen Stefani.  Premise-Based of the iconic (and creepy) toy line, Trolls follows the titular creatures as they try to avoid being eaten by Bergens (cruel/unhappy giants that eat Trolls to feel happy).  When some of the Trolls are taken prisoner, it is up to Poppy (the princess of the Trolls) and her cantankerous friend Branch to save them.

Yes, those (Aibel/Berger) are the writers of Kung Fu Panda 3, a legitimately excellent, funny, and emotional DreamWorks film, and the director of ChipwreckedTrolls is the newest entry into the “pastel-colored, trendy, stupid, animated, children’s films” category that includes: The Secret Life of Pets, The Angry Birds Movie, Home, Storks, and Minions.  Needless to say I hate this approach to children’s entertainment, especially when companies that have set the standards for children’s animation backtrack for the sake of profits.  Let’s be honest, why the heck would anyone make a movie based off of a toy other than to make profits?  Oh yeah, it’s called The Lego Movie!  That is one of the best animated movies of the 2010’s because it had passion, good humor, stylistic animation, and a story that actually had a creative moral.  And after Inside Out, I expect better from Disney’s main competition.

I’m stalling again aren’t I?  In all honestly, Trolls isn’t horrible, at the very lease it tells its own story.  The trailers really set my expectations low (can you blame me?), but the plot is somewhat creative.  We see the difference between the world of the Trolls and the word of the Bergens and all of their tonal parallels.  The sense of adventure is fun (especially when it is told from the perspective of 3 inch creatures), and a few of the characters are likable.  Those characters would be Timberlake’s Branch, who is the one Troll who is not all smiles and sunshine (thank God), and Bridget (a young Bergen with a crush on the equally young Bergen king).  Even though I am a positive person (my favorite character from Inside Out is Joy for Pete’s sake), the amount of sickly sweet these Trolls excrete is exhausting!  Branch represents every film critic watching the movie; annoyed, pointing out the flaws of a happy-go-lucky society, and muttering sarcastic remarks with a deadpan expression.  To be fair, Branch is the best part of this movie because his straight man personality works really well off of the goofy world he lives in, and that is where the movie’s humor shines.  The problem is that nearly every other character is one-note or just exists to spout memes “OMG, Oh Snap, etc.”  With the exception of Bridget (voiced by Zooey Deschanel) and Branch, the characters are pretty interchangeable/forgettable.

As for the animation, it’s fine.  I feel like 3D was invented purely to be abused (kinda like Flash animation).  The best animated movies that used 3D are the ones that use it artfully.  How to Train Your Dragon used it to get audiences in on the action and experience of flight, The Lego Movie used it to perfectly replicate the look of Lego figures, Wreck-It-Ralph used it to emulate the videogame atmosphere, and Toy Story, well they pioneered it.  Movies like Home and The Secret Life of Pets used it to appeal to children because “Kids luv colors!”  Trolls has more style to it than either of those movies, and it does make sense that the world these toy-based products come from would be bright and shiny.

What disappoints me the most about this movie is the soundtrack.  Keeping in line with that aforementioned thought-process, Trolls’ soundtrack consists mostly of pop song remixes a la Alvin and the Chipmunks.  C’mon man!  You have Justin Timberlake and Anna Kendrick, two very successful and talented artists, and you go the cheap route with the soundtrack!?  There are one or two original songs, but it is largely remixes (which are awful) including some rap… no.  Although, there is some pretty good acapella here and there.

DreamWorks is going to sell a lot of toys off of this one.  If the cuteness factor (which needs to die) wasn’t enough, there is even a Troll character that speaks in auto tune!  The plot is just clichéd enough to warrant the moral of “happiness is inside of you, you just need to find it.”  Which is definitely a moral geared towards the privileged children whose parents have the $25 to spend on watching this movie, but not too many others.  We need morals like the ones presented in Inside Out rather than something as basic as “be happy” because not everyone gets a happy ending.

In the end, I have seen worse, but from the same company that created The Prince of Egypt, Shrek, and the Kung Fu Panda trilogy, I expect more effort.  Don’t be Illumination Entertainment, be the company that proved the “don’t judge a book by its cover” belief incorrect multiple times.  Trolls gets Guy’s Guru Grade of a C-.

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