I have to tell you all that it feels a bit depressing, to follow up last week’s review for the surprise smash “Storks” with something that falls right into the bargain bin pile that I expected it to go in. “Trolls” is one of the more recent attempts to cash in on a recognisable toy franchise, and if anything, it reminded me why I worked so hard to remove them from my memory in the first place.
The basic story is about as simple as it gets – cutesy tribe live their lives fleeing from their mortal enemies the Bergens. Bergens seek Trolls since they’re essentially a get-you-happy drug when eaten. Trolls get sighted by a Bergen and some are captured. Rescue mission is set by two Trolls (voiced by Anna Kendrick, Justin Timberlake). Much singing and cuteness follows.
I could have delved into the other details but when it comes down to the fine edge, that’s all that is going on. The rest is filled in by remixes of copyrighted songs, and odd side plots to run the clock down before the next event begins. If I had to be kind I would call the screenplay design “unfinished”.
But hey, we see these kind of animated films release every year, I should be used to this, right? Well, examples like “Storks” and even to a small extent “Angry Birds”, show you can drag a franchise in and still write some good material to surround it all. But I have the distinct feeling that no one on this production had much joy or love while developing it. The characters are given bland, one-dimensional personalities that hardly evolve one bit during the running time. The main duo have a tiny bit going on, but not enough to mask the obvious love story set up of “bad boy and cute girl”. The main villain and (new) king of the Bergens have a little to them too, the former being a bitter exile and the latter an over-cradled child king. More should have been done with them since they at the very least offer something.
The animation by Dreamworks is akin to their B-movie attempts – that is, very flat and overly saturated with colour. At least it hides up the fact that there’s very little detail in any of the backgrounds or designs, but basing the palette on a bag of Skittles doesn’t make for a visually pleasing experience. The scrapbook style drawings used at a few points were neat, but I’d struggle to find more to say about them. As mentioned, the music is mixes of copyrighted songs, and is at times intolerable. At least I can say these moments gave me a reason to mute the bloody television and get a few seconds of relief from it all. Honestly, I can’t believe they called in Justin Timberlake, and the result was this trash.
They do add one aspect where the Trolls can use their long hair like a grappling hook or other forms, which at least means more can be done with them without resorting to gadgets or the like. The circumstances and dead-flat story mean there’s only a little that gets done with it, but I guess we could have seen worse.
You may be thinking that I’m kicking what is a kids movie in the dirt, and yes, it is for relatively young kids, and they’ll enjoy the songs, and cuteness, and all the rest of it. Of course this will, it was a roaring success in theatres and will be just as successful in home sales. To that end, it does meet the target audience and what is typically delivered to them.
But that doesn’t mean a studio should just sleep-walk through the entire design process and splat out a dog turd just because it is easy and cheap. It may be a success, but nobody will remember this after a year, by which time the next dreadful release will have taken its spot. If there had been just a little more creativity, an adoption of maybe one original song, and an attempt at some comedy, I would have let it off the hook.
But “Trolls” seems completely content to deliver a resoundingly flat tone like what you hear from a refrigerator. There is almost nothing in the content that I can pick out and analyse because it is all so flimsy, and barely any points I can approve of because even last year’s mediocre releases surpassed it. This is one to rent if you absolutely must get it for your kids, or load it off someone else for free. There is MUCH better animation for young kids out there, and you’ll spare yourself the displeasure of having to sit through it too.
Thanks for reading!