Tuesday, November 22, 2016


TROLLS (Mike Mitchell and Walt Dohrn, 2016)

In TROLLS the tiny title characters are joyful creatures whose days are filled with singing, dancing, and hugging. Darkness enters their celebratory existences when the much larger, monstrous Bergen find the trolls and learn that eating them is the one way they can experience happiness. The Bergen set aside one day each year for eating trolls, but when the time comes for Prince Gristle (Christopher Mintz-Plasse) to taste his first troll, the scrappy little optimists escape and go undetected for twenty years.

Their safety comes to an end when Princess Poppy (Anna Kendrick), the happiest and most positive of all the trolls, puts on a massive rave noticeable from great distances. Chef (Christine Baranski), the Bergen who was banished from town when the trolls got away, sees the party. Excited at the chance to get back in the good graces of the Bergen, she tracks down the trolls and captures some. Poppy is determined to go to Bergen Town to save her friends and eventually is joined by Branch (Justin Timberlake), a pessimistic, survivalist troll who always suspected this horrible day would come.

TROLLS is rendered in eye-searing colors and features its share of trippy visuals, making the experience of watching it akin to mainlining Junior Senior’s impossibly peppy “Move Your Feet”, which Poppy sings as part of a buoyant pop medley. These small creatures with bright, upswept hair make no apologies for being cheerful, enthusiastic, and loving because they’ve identified that happiness comes from within rather than being consumed. There’s probably a mild contradiction in that message, as the film is based on toys after all. Nevertheless, TROLLS is more committed to being insistently upbeat and gloriously weird than shamelessly pushing product.

TROLLS’ unfiltered strangeness is one of its most appealing qualities. The humor holds appeal for adults because it’s so off-the-wall yet isn’t pitched at them. It simply indulges silliness to the nth degree. A sequence in which a cloud with skinny legs requests a high five from Branch in exchange for some critical information makes for a hilarious routine in which the gray troll is cajoled to make the smallest gesture of happiness. Kendrick’s perky voicing of Poppy and Timberlake’s glum Branch make a funny contrast.

The story in TROLLS is sufficient, although the film is best when it’s riffing and letting its freak flag fly. Pop music is cleverly incorporated and brings some additional energy to this sugar rush of a film.

Grade: B-

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