Witty 'Trolls' is a relentless machine of musical happiness
Posted November 4, 2016
“TROLLS” — 2½ stars — Voices of Anna Kendrick, Justin Timberlake, Zooey Deschanel, Russell Brand, James Corden; PG (mild rude humor); in general release
Take a glance at the latest fad toy to get the big-screen treatment, and you're liable to have one of two reactions. You'll either embrace the zany creatures for their so-ugly-they're-cute quality, or you'll shake your head and mutter, "I don't get it."
The "Trolls" movie will probably generate the same reaction.
As an Anna Kendrick-led musical that bursts with sunshine and lollipops while offering revamped takes on familiar songs like Earth Wind & Fire's "September" and Simon and Garfunkel's "The Sound of Silence," "Trolls" comes across like an animated version of one of the "Pitch Perfect" movies.
Kendrick voices Princess Poppy, the pink-colored leader of a generously coiffed race of tiny creatures called Trolls. Rather than hang out under bridges, these Trolls spend the majority of their time singing, dancing or hugging.
They are also a culinary delicacy to their archenemies, the Bergens. The Bergens are considerably larger, less colorful and have really bad teeth. Their leader is a pudgy youngster named Prince Gristle (Christopher Mintz-Plasse) who feels doomed to a lifetime of sadness because he has never eaten a Troll. (After years of abuse at the hands — and stomachs — of the Bergens, an opening scene explains how the Trolls long ago fled into the wilderness.)
When an angry Bergen outcast named Chef (Christine Baranski) discovers the Trolls' secret home, she kidnaps a dozen of the bizarre little creatures in hopes of redemption. Princess Poppy immediately vows to rescue her friends because, after all, according to her father King Peppy (Jeffrey Tambor), the Troll motto is, "no Troll left behind." To do so, she must recruit the help of a Troll survivalist named Branch (Justin Timberlake), a gloomy outcast who wants no part of Poppy's giddy lifestyle.
Thus "Trolls" becomes a kind of action-adventure version of Dr. Seuss's "Green Eggs and Ham," as Poppy sets out to save her friends while incessantly nagging Branch to embrace the wonders of the Troll culture, often through the use of spontaneous, elaborate dance numbers. Whether you relate more to Poppy or Branch may determine how you ultimately feel about "Trolls."
Story aside, "Trolls" benefits from a sharp sense of humor and some creative animation that makes everything in their universe appear to have a felt texture. There's also an amusing subplot involving Poppy giving an elaborate makeover to a Bergen scullery maid named Bridget (Zooey Deschanel), who is suffering from an unreconciled crush on Prince Gristle. For that bit, the film revamps Lionel Ritchie's "Hello," which has achieved near immortality thanks to the internet in recent years.
While about 60 percent of "Trolls" is a solid, quality production, the rest is an acquired taste that will polarize the audience, especially those on the mature end. Like it or not, Poppy and her friends will not cease to try to Sam-I-Am their way into your hearts. You will be happy … or else.
“Trolls” is rated PG for mild rude humor; running time: 92 minutes.
Joshua Terry is a freelance writer and photographer who appeared weekly on "The KJZZ Movie Show" from 2013 to 2016. He also teaches English composition for Salt Lake Community College. Find him online at facebook.com/joshterryreviews.