At first glance, DreamWorks’ Trolls seems like yet another attempt to capitalize on a popular franchise or phenomenon. And let’s be honest, it probably is. However, does the film do the beloved wacky-haired ’90s dolls justice?
Trolls tells the story of bite-size woodland creatures called Trolls who live in perpetual happiness by singing, hugging, and dancing. The Bergens, large, ogre-like creatures, cannot feel happiness, but have found that by eating a Troll, they can temporarily feel happy. The Bergens turn this into a annual holiday, called Trollstice, on which every Bergen in Bergen Town gets to eat a Troll. However, the Trolls finally smarten up and flee their ancestral home, the Troll tree in the center of Bergen Town, and find a new home in the depths of the forest.
Twenty years later, a troll named Princess Poppy (Anna Kendrick) holds a boisterous dance party that accidentally reveals the Trolls’ location to a disgruntled Bergen, Chef (Christine Baranski), who was banished by the Bergens on the day the Trolls fled Bergen Town. Chef captures some of Poppy’s friends, with hopes of regaining favor by the ruler of the Bergens, Prince Gristle Jr. (Christopher Mintz-Plasse). Poppy, not willing to give up on her friends, enlists the help of a paranoid, doomsdayer Troll named Branch (Justin Timberlake) and together they set out on a journey to save the Trolls.
DreamWorks’ version of the Troll doll has a modified design from the ’90s figurines (although the original Troll design does make a brief cameo), mainly in that they are very colorful, poop cupcakes, fart glitter, and can somehow grow their hair out at will. All absurdities aside, the unique character and production design were the biggest highlights of the film. I particularly loved the world the Trolls live in, filled with lots of color and unique texture. For example, many of the flora and fauna appeared to be made of felt-like material, mimicking the felt scrapbooks that Poppy enjoys creating. Everything about this film made you want to reach out to touch it.
Trolls mostly focuses on Poppy and her journey. While Kendrick’s performance is good, she doesn’t quite steal the show. Branch is forgettable, but this is due more to the writing of his character, rather than Timberlake’s performance. We don’t entirely focus on the Trolls though, as there are a few subplots that focus on how the Bergens are feeling about the lack of Trolls in their life. In one of these subplots, we follow Bridget, a scullery maid who is in love with the Prince, and the events that follow are very over-the-top and strange.
One of the Trolls favorite pastimes is singing, so naturally the film is packed with lots of songs. However, the vast array of songs is very disjointed; you have original songs, old favorites, and current hits. Sometimes the songs worked and other times they were just bizarre and out of place.
While there are a few unique elements, the story seems to follow a tried-and-true formula: hero’s friends get captured, hero sets out to find friends, hero clashes with travel companion, travel companion opens up, hero and travel companion save the day. There was a scene and song where it felt like “insert sappy moment here” was written in the script, which took me out of the moment.
Trolls is a cute film, but in too many ways felt familiar and cliché. In many places the film worked and in others it didn’t. Overall, you aren’t missing much if you miss out on this one.
Edited by: Hannah Wilkes