You might easily shrug this movie aside. The amount of color and music in this movie might lead you to believe that it’s a childrens’ movie. I’m here to tell you that it’s much more than that.
This movie reinvents the somewhat creepy dolls that some of us grew up with. In this new world, the trolls begin the movie locked up by a sad race of monsters called the Bergens, who can only experience happiness when they eat a troll. So the Bergens have a once-a-year festival where they all eat trolls and feel happiness for one day. However, the trolls escape and the Bergen chef, whose one job is now gone, is exiled and she (Christine Baranski) now seeks to find and capture the trolls.
We shoot forward in time, where Princess Poppy (Anna Kendrick) leads the trolls and celebrates nonstop, including much singing, dancing, and hugging. One troll however enjoys none of these things: the curmudgeonly Branch (Justin Timberlake). Well, after one night of partying too hard, the angry Bergen chef finds the trolls and it’s up to Poppy and Branch to infiltrate the Bergen city and save them.
We meet a few Bergens, most notably the young King Gristle (Christopher Mintz-Plasse) and a sweet scullery-maid named Briget (Zooey Deschanel). On the troll side, we also have voices by James Corden, Gwen Stefani, Russell Brand, and more.
This movie was surprisingly good. Maybe intended for kids? Yes. But regardless, I had a smile on my face for most it.
As an adult, I found the movie to be surprisingly clever. Its basic premise is trying to use happiness to overcome terrible odds, but it does this in a way that is almost satirical, through the incredibly self-aware Branch (Timberlake). When they begin singing or when their “hug time” alarms go off, it’s easy for us to cringe. But Branch cringes too, meaning that the movie, and even its characters, are in on the joke. Its over the top music and color and overall vibrancy is countered with some deep and witty humor.
But let’s talk about these visuals. This movie has an astounding sense of style. It’s out of this world, to be honest. They manage to create textures to an incredible degree, so it looks like these monsters are made of felt or cloth. It’s colorful yet also strangely grounded, like we’re watching a stop motion movie using crafting supplies (which mimics Poppy’s love of scrapbooking).
The music is also fantastic. I’m listening to the soundtrack right now because I can’t get enough. There is a lot of music, so go in prepared for that. They’re all covers of popular songs but they work. My favorite was a great cover of The Sound of Silence by Simon & Garfunkel.
There’s still more! There’s a surprisingly deep and meaningful story under all this that’s not even alluded to in the trailers. All I want to spoil is that Zooey Deschanel’s Bridget, a Bergen servant girl, was my favorite character in the whole film. I teared up a few times, though that’s fairly easy to accomplish. This movie still hit all the right notes for me.
What doesn’t work?
I’m having a hard time articulating what didn’t work.
I feel like I, as an adult, can appreciate the humor here, but there’s likely an age range that won’t appreciate this and maybe can’t get past the rainbows and music. I’d reckon anyone in the range of like 12-17 might struggle to really engage with this, but kids and adults both should find things to love about it.
And just because I can’t articulate a lot that’s wrong, that doesn’t mean it’s a 5-star movie. It’s not. It does however exceed all my expectations and I had a blast at the theater watching it. I’ll listen to the soundtrack for a few days and maybe rent it later but it’s not a movie that I’ll rank in the best of the best. In the best of 2016? Maybe. We’ll see.
If you want some light escapism, head to see Trolls. You’ll be surprised by a story that is quite endearing, some great music covers, and some visuals that will really impress you. There is much more to this movie than you’d expect and it’d be a shame for you to miss these visuals on the big screen. If you have kids this a no-brainer, but even adults alone can find a lot of fun here.