Reviewed by GREG KING
Directors: Walt Dohrn, Mike Mitchell
Stars: voices of Anna Kendrick, Justin Timberlake, Zooey Deschanel, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Jeffrey Tambor, John Cleese, Russell Brand, James Corden, Gwen Stefani, Quvenzhane Wallis.
In Norse mythology trolls were ugly, slow witted, fearsome flesh eating giants, as seen in Andre Ovredal’s 2010 horror fantasy Troll Hunter. In modern cyberspeak a troll is an indivudual who prowls the internet posting nasty and inflammatory remarks on community noticeboards to sow discord. In this cute and colourful animated family friendly comedy from Dreamworks, trolls are cute and cuddly, cotton candy coloured and perky perennially happy little creatures that sing and dance all day and hug each other at regular intervals.
The trolls lived in a colourful tree in their village. But their world changed when their enemy the Bergens captured the trolls. The ogre-like Bergens are a miserable lot who believe that they can only find happiness by eating trolls. Once a year, on Trollstice Day, the Bergens gather to eat trolls and enjoy a day of happiness. On the day that young Prince Gristle (Christopher Mintz-Plasse) is about to taste his first troll, the Bergens are shocked to discover that they have escaped from the tree. King Peppy (voiced by Jeffrey Tambor) leads the trolls to safety and they establish a new sanctuary. Meanwhile the Bergen’s royal chef (voiced by Christine Baranski) is exiled and sent away in disgrace.
Twenty years later, the trolls are still living peacefully. Poppy (Anna Kendrick) decides to throw a party to celebrate their two decades of freedom, despite the pessimistic warnings of the sullen and overly paranoid Branch (Justin Timberlake). Unlike the rest of the trolls who are happy and colourful Branch is always gloomy and he is grey coloured. But his warnings come true when the music and fireworks attract the attention of chef, who has harboured a grudge against the trolls. She manages to kidnap several of the trolls and plans to serve them up to Gristle, who has now become king of the Bergens.
It is up to Poppy and a reluctant Branch to mount a daring rescue. Along the way she helps the downtrodden scullery maid Bridget (New Girl‘s Zooey Deschanel) realise her inner beauty and giving her a makeover so she can romance King Gristle. And she shows the Bergens that happiness comes from within.
Based on the Good Luck Trolls dolls created by Thomas Dam, Trolls will remind many of The Smurfs. The film serves up a reworking of many of the familiar tropes of the fairy tales of our childhood, in particular Cinderella, which is referenced in a couple of scenes. Trolls delivers some fine, positive messages that resonate strongly, especially when accompanied by a renditions of Cyndi Lauper’s hit True Colours.
The film has been directed by Mike Mitchell and Walt Dohrn, who are veterans of the Shrek franchise. They bring plenty of vibrant energy to the material and maintain an upbeat mood for most of the 92 minute running time. The CGI rendered animation is colourful and detailed, and the action moves along at a fast pace. But there are also some inconsistencies and flaws in the internal logic of this world that will raise many questions that can’t be answered. These things won’t matter much to the target demographic of children aged around 10 or so though, as they will be distracted and entertained by the colour, energy, the visuals, the slapstick humour, the music and the charming central characters.
A pitch perfect Kendrick brings plenty of energy and a perky quality to her reading of the optimistic Poppy. Timberlake and Kendrick develop a good rapport and make the most of their contrasting personalities. The Good Wife‘s Baranski delivers a nicely malevolent performance as the evil and conniving chef, a role that will remind many of her recent work as the wicked stepmother in the musical drama Into The Woods. The directors have assembled a strong vocal cast, drawn from far superior animated films, to bring the characters to life, including John Cleese, James Corden, Russell Brand, Gwen Stefani and Quvenzhane Wallis.
The soundtrack itself serves up some uninspired versions of recycled pop hits. Trolls is a fairly generic animated film, and while the youngsters will be entertained adult audiences will quickly tire of the whole thing.
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