Trolls World Tour (2020)

“There are others kinds of trolls.”

Despite the overwhelming feeling that Trolls World Tour – the second entry in what’s still a head-scratching series – only seems to exist and expand its world as a means of selling more merchandise, both films in the franchise deserve praise for their willingness to take a stance. Most animated movies have no message and no point and too much noise. 2016’s Trolls found hate and love squaring off in the arena. This time around, the kid friendly flick pits tribalism against isolationism, and ends in a place where both camps come to understand their own faulty thinking. Like most happy meal movies prepackaged and sold to kids, Trolls World Tour is bright, loud, and flavored by the colors and sweetness of a bag of Skittles. It’s not great or all that moving, but at least it has something worthwhile to say.

For all of the surprising morality the movie wrestles with throughout, I still don’t understand the truly bizarre and extended opening sequence. The first ten minutes are basically one long, aggravating movie video playing jukebox oldies, the likes of which most little tikes have never heard. Then it introduces us to new varieties of trolls, all with their own genre of music. Queen Poppy (Anna Kendrick) oversees the land of Pop. No surprise. But there’s also Techno, Classical, Country, Funk, and Rock. The latter of which is led by Barb (Rachel Bloom), traveling around this troll map with the intent to steal each nation’s precious “string,” hoping to strike one massive power chord and unite all trolls under the hymns of rock and roll. Poppy wants peace, and her journey to confront Barb has Branch (Justin Timberlake) tagging along. He wants to protect her happy-go-lucky self from harm’s way. And he wants to finally say, “I like you.”

The script for this one never feels cohesive or concerned with continuity, going on cursory tangents, taking abrupt u-turns and coming to conclusions that are more forced than they are earned. However, those aren’t necessarily mortal sins in the realm of animation either. Appearances matter in this format, and Trolls World Tour makes fake cotton candy look as delicious, sticky, and sugary as the rest of this land of make belief. It pops and it’s corny…how appropriate. The story packs a message but preaches a little too much and the antics become somewhat annoying, but there’s no denying that it’s visually resplendent. The curb appeal helps mask some of the vapidness.

What I most admired about Trolls, and what I’m happy to see has somewhat carried over into Trolls World Tour, is that neither film feels unafraid to challenge the intelligence of children. And sure, the sequel occasionally caters to them in spots, relying on outdated (if sometimes true) stereotypes to define most of the characters and even having a birthday cake plop out of a troll’s bottom. It’s clearly made for kids and they’ll give two thumbs up. But its big song doesn’t hold a candle in the wind to the original’s “Can’t Stop the Feeling,” a true cross-over earworm that related to the story and infiltrated radios as its own entity. Instead, Trolls World Tour relies on the kind of jukebox playlist my dad would’ve curated while playing pool in the basement after a long day at work, and one I’d have expected to hear while listening to a throwback countdown hosted by Casey Kasem on a Sunday morning. Kids won’t get that reference, nor will they know most of the tracks. The music choices are so oddly outdated for a film that wants to appeal to a new generation and to be so modern.

“We’re all gonna have the same vibe.”

Rating: 2.5 out of 5

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