“I think everyone deserves to be happy.”
If you ever wondered what the film version of a singing birthday card would be like, then Trolls is your answer. High-pitched, unexpected, and most of all, actually pretty surprising. They could have made this Mattel movie into anything really; it’s not like the naked figurines with colorful heads of wisp had any built-in history to stick by. So while the film is overbearing and loud and obnoxious, it’s still grounded in a rather mature mindset, following a theme which scolds some of the most central and misguided treatment methods of our culture today. Trolls has some big issues, but even with those problems, I’m glad it took a chance. The aim is big and the miss is small.
20 years after the Trolls escaped from the Bergens, gigantic creatures who feast on the snack sized beings to feel happy, the Trolls have found a peaceful residence. The nearly eaten infant Princess Poppy (Anna Kendrick) is now grown, and her community thrives as outsiders. You won’t find characters any more one-dimensional than these. They’re happy, they dance, they sing, they give a hug every hour. Feeling bad for the Trolls is hard because their own oblivion becomes their downfall. A boisterous party leads Chef (Christine Baranski), previously cast off from the Bergens for losing track of the Trolls so many years ago, right to their doorstep. In this world, when you meet a monster, you shriek and poop cupcakes. I’ve never really liked dessert, but this I can almost agree with.
Trolls are abducted, taken back so Prince Gristle Jr. (Christopher Mintz-Plasse) can savor his first taste of happiness, then other surprises occur. It’s up to Poppy and Branch (Justin Timberlake), a grey Debbie Downer, to save those who were stolen. Along the way there are forgettable songs, plush emotions, cotton candy filler. Trolls is a film written with a three act structure but has no beats. And it’s inarguably Dreamworks’ response to the success of Inside Out. Here the take is primitive; these Trolls want to make themselves feel good through physicality instead of psychological understanding. Inside Out has unmatched levels of sophistication. On the other hand we have Trolls, a film most definitely geared towards children, playing Pixar’s copycat with more bathroom humor squatting above a potty trainer seat. All of its great ideas tend to go splash and sploosh, defecated from a film that needs to relieve itself but has no clue how to sit down without a diaper around its ankles.
So why didn’t I hate this movie? I mean it’s poorly assembled, overenthusiastic at every turn, and as welcome as a toddler’s tug at the pant leg after a long day. Trolls does not know how to relax. But the film addresses one of society’s most glaring topics of unrest. Like the Bergens, most people – through laziness and indifference, or through isolation and fragility – seem to think happiness can be bottled, bought, and consumed. Gulped down through the sweet sugar rush of a gas station soda fill-up. Served to them in a drink with a bar napkin and a fancy straw. Medicated by pills, needles, patches. Trolls is not a great film, and I’m fully aware that in comparison to other features I am completely overrating it here. But through colorful visuals and Top 20 radio sounds, it takes a holistic approach to curing sadness. Hate is the symptom and love – through acceptance, insight, and exercised belief – patiently waits on the other end as the remedy. You cannot consume happiness because it is not tangible, let alone edible. Rather, you let happiness consume you, and when that happens, the high is enveloping. Trolls is a big piece of plastic garnished with a brain and a heart.
“No troll left behind.”
Rating: 3 out of 5