Starring Anna Kendrick, Justin Timberlake, Zooey Deschanel, Gwen Stefani, James Corden, Russell Brand
3.5 STARS (out of 5)
I am more than happy to hold my hands up – when I first saw the initial trailers and advertising for Trolls, I was more than cynical. I believe this was around a similar time to Norm of the North and Top Cat Begins having descended on unsuspecting families and my faith in the future of child-friendly animation was beginning to wobble – despite Zootopia, Finding Dory and Kubo and the Two Strings having assured me everything is more than fine – but everything about the idea of this movie screamed ‘cash-in’. The idea of bringing back the plastic flame-haired dolls to a new audience, ballasted by a pop-chart soundtrack and enough sugar coating to ruin anyone’s teeth for life did not appeal to me – then again, I’m hardly the demographic for this movie, but regardless, I was genuinely concerned that it was going to be yet another formulaic and unchallenging animation that kids would ultimately find either boring or uninspiring. I’m extremely happy to say that I’ve been proven wrong for the most part, and while it’s hardly a perfect family movie, there are lots of good reasons as to why you shouldn’t judge this book by its cover.
The story is fairly simple, and that’s all it needs to be – the kingdom of the Trolls is an extremely happy place to be, largely unthreatened by the hungry Bergens, bigger, grouchier creatures who need to eat the fuzzy-haired goblins in order to be happy themselves. Years pass in the kingdom without incident after a spectacular near miss, and a group of trolls find themselves captured by the Bergens once more – leaving it down to a band of heroic trolls led by the ever-enthusiastic Princess Poppy to try and rescue their friends.
Trolls is a great-looking movie. It’s very creative and undeniably colourful, straight away appealing to most kids on a visual level – and the characters are all individually designed and for the most part seem to genuinely have interesting traits. It’s a movie that benefits from an eager and talented cast, and while James Corden in particular seems to be absolutely everywhere at the moment, he is well cast alongside fellow Brit Russell Brand in bringing comic relief where needed. Yes, there’s songs, yes, they’re endlessly peppy and everything is almost mindlessly happy – but it’s kind of infectious.
The movie is helmed by two directors who worked on Shrek Forever After, and while that installment in the franchise didn’t exactly live up to the original Shrek nor its sequel, it did well to offer a genuinely interesting series of twists to a well-traveled cast – and Trolls, too, has interesting twists and turns and certainly benefits from a creative world and cast. Its story is fairly unchallenging, offers all the hallmark clichés and nuances, but this isn’t really much of a problem – at least, less of an issue than I thought it would be.
To its credit, Trolls borrows from the Lego Movie school of writing screenplays for kids’ movies and does well. While movies in the vein of Storks throw everything it has in its arsenal at the screen in one go, Trolls is nicely paced and benefits from having an almost old-school quality to it – it certainly feels that the influence of traditional Disney is still holding strong in there somewhere, beneath the colours and the endlessly happy display.
Trolls - Official Trailer (Dreamworks)
Parents may find the movie a little on the twee side – if not completely – but there are plenty of well-timed jokes that ensure everyone has a good time. If anything, it’s a movie that doesn’t really demand much – it never really tries higher than its station, and that really is to its credit. It’s nicely stylised, well-paced and is sure to entertain. It’s not the most original nor the deepest family movie on the block, but it’s absolutely worth the price of admission.
As for your humble movie critic, it’s always nice to be pleasantly surprised. Trolls fits nicely alongside The Angry Birds Movie as a perfectly harmless family movie that does just enough to be entertaining but never really aims to be ground-breaking, or to be challenging the likes of Pixar or Disney’s animated canon. Certainly, this may explain why Trolls and Storks have held out for their respective release dates – and as October and November can be somewhat of a blind spot for children’s movies, it’s good to see that good-hearted animation can still break through and hold its own. With only Disney’s Moana really left on the table animation-wise for 2016, I’m hoping we can really leave the genre on a high note – and that Norm and Top Cat can be best left forgotten in the earlier echelons of the year.