It used to be that every animated film released that wasn’t from Disney tried to be Disney. That’s no surprise really, for decades Disney completely dominated the genre and made it seem like it was impossible to make an animated film any other way. Then more studios broke into the industry like Dreamworks and Blue Sky, showing that not every film needed an upbeat musical number. But now that Disney are the kings again, the rip-offs are back. But some of them were good, The Iron Giant remains a favorite of mine even if was obviously a Disney wannabe, so should we have some hope for Trolls?
The trolls leave a happy life now that they have escaped from the bergens, singing, dancing and hugging. However their lives are ruined when the bergens find them and capture them so they can bring back the holiday of Trollstice, where they eat trolls to become happy. To make sure they don’t get eaten, Poppy (Anna Kendrick, Up in the Air) and Branch (Justin Timberlake, Inside Llewyn Davies) combine forces to rescue them.
One of the things that has made me happy that Disney have made a comeback is that we get their brand of catchy songs again. Yes I know parents probably get a twitch when they hear Let It Go, but I personally love that song and many of the others Disney have produced in the last few years. So I’m actually quite happy that Trolls is a bit of a mini musical, with a large library of songs. What’s nice too is that the original songs are pretty good. You’ve probably already heard Can’t Stop The Feeling a lot already considering it was one of the biggest songs of 2016, but the rendition here is pretty good with Justin Timberlake dueting with Anna Kendrick to make it different from the one from the radio while Get Back Up Again is another cheery song, one with an opening which subtly mocks the big solo pieces done by Disney’s princesses.
However they aren’t the only songs. The film also decides to pack in a lot of renditions of popular songs such as The Sound of Silence, Hello and Mo’ Money Mo’ Problems, and yes I’m not kidding with that last one or any of them really. All are odd additions for a film aimed at kids, especially one that is aiming to be a cheery, colourful and unchallenging one such as this. So of course, the film tries to make them a bit happier, even if it is a slower part of the story.And that leads to classic songs being overproduced and pretty embarrassing. Also, if it wasn’t bad enough that Anna Kendrick unironically raps, Zooey Deschanel (Elf) as a bergen named Bridget also does it. It’s very tough to watch.
When the film is at it’s best, it is playing on the relationship between Poppy and Branch. It is very clichéd sure, Poppy is an overly enthusiastic optimist while Branch is the exact opposite, but the film executes those beats well. Poppy somehow irritates Branch, he is exasperated and annoyed, there’s a few laughs to be had. Both are helped by having some solid voice work behind them. Yes, Timberlake is merely that, solid, but Kendrick is always a lovely presence and brings lots of energy to her role without being irritating. That’s a tough line to toe, yet she manages it.
Yet the film does eventually stray off this path and beware ye, because here be crap. Of course Poppy and Branch make it to the bergen village and it’s bit weird as it seems like we’re only 30 minutes into the film. And you’re right, you aren’t that long into the film. So after the mildly amusing road trip, you end up with a lot of trolls trying to help Bridget find love with the young King Gristle (Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Superbad). This is utter rubbish. Hackneyed, boring and with none of the energy that powered you through the opening third, it is the worst of animated films. This is why no one is excited for Dreamworks films anymore.
And to make it worse, the message of the film? Well this is a bit of a spoiler, but it is that the happiness is in you all along. Yes, you may have seen that around 5,373,293 times already, but this film is going to present it as a huge revelation and twist that is on the level of The Sixth Sense even though it is more on the level of Sesame Street. And to be honest, I think people behind the film are a bit embarrassed of the ending because boy does the film finish quick afterwards. They sing Can’t Stop The Feeling and it cuts to black, as if everyone agreed that parents would be destroying something by now and they should end to make that cinemas were left with seats. It is more abrupt than The Sopranos.
Trolls isn’t the worst animated film put to screen, Norm of the North still exists, as there are some laughs, good song numbers and very colourful animation. But it suffers from laziness in the scripting department because even when they do something right, it is something you’ve seen before. And after a decent start, the film completely derails into terrible scene after terrible scene, nothing with laughs and even some of the colour has been drained. It is weird though that while we’ve been going on about the dip in quality of Pixar, that we completely ignored that Dreamworks have just crashed and burned.