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USD $1 ₱ 57.51 0.0240 April 23, 2024
April 17, 2024
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‘Trolls’ is a Fizzy Distraction

It would be pretty silly to complain about a film that is really all just about the merits of singing and dancing and being happy. In these dark times, maybe a film like this is exactly what we need.

Trolls begins by explaining the conceit of the world. The Trolls are a colorful, happy bunch that once lived in a magical tree. The Bergens are much larger creatures seemingly incapable of being happy. Then, the Bergens discover that they can be happy if they eat Trolls. The Trolls, led by their king, escaped from the clutches of the Bergens and hid out in the forest. Years later, the Trolls, having grown complacent, are discovered once again. A bunch of them are taken back to the Bergen kingdom. Princess Poppy (Anna Kendrick) enlists the aid of Branch (Justin Timberlake), the only unhappy Troll, in order to rescue her friends.

The story is actually kind of a mess. About halfway through, the film shifts gears as it becomes about the Trolls helping out one particular Bergen in her pursuit of romance. There is a makeover, some Cyrano de Bergerac-style, and some disco roller-skating. Through it all, the film struggles with its theme, seemingly unsure of what it wants to say about happiness. Ultimately, the film relies heavily on its music to prop up its emotional content, using the familiarity of pop song to evoke feelings that the writing can’t quite reach.

The film is mostly about the odd couple pairing of Branch and Poppy. Branch is the only Troll that doesn’t like singing and dancing and hugging. Of course, as one might predict, the story is somewhat about him learning to appreciate those things again. In normal narrative logic, Poppy needs to learn as well that there might be some value in the way that Branch sees things. The film hints at this at the start, making Poppy out to be singularly unready for the dangers of the real world. But in the end, the film mostly stumps for the value of singing and dancing and hugging.

The film plays at depth, but never really goes all in. It holds back, content with being bright and colorful and funny. And to some extent, it works. It mostly moves quickly through its scattered plot, never really lingering on any one point long enough for the disparity to matter. It will throw a song in there when things get a little sticky, giving the movie an excuse to go all out with visuals as accompaniment to the music. There are some visual tricks in here, like the fuzzy texture on practically everything on screen, and the generous use of colorful lighting effects. It all feels very tactile and alive, even in the smallest moments.

That said, the film can only sustain that feeling for so long. It heads into a narrative climax that just needs more emotional grounding than the story can provide. The messy plot and the general lack of investment in the depth of these characters make some of these moments real hollow, in spite of the power of the pop music moving them. The voice acting is fine. Justin Timberlake and Anna Kendrick give plenty of warmth to these characters. The movie doesn’t really find enough use for the excess of talent in the supporting cast, but no one is doing a bad job.

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Trolls is largely inoffensive as movies go. It would be pretty silly to complain about a film that is really all just about the merits of singing and dancing and being happy. In these dark times, maybe a film like this is exactly what we need. On the other hand, this just doesn’t seem like the kind of film that becomes remembered. It isn’t the kind of film that really becomes beloved by the generation that gets to see it first. It is at best a fizzy distraction. And while that’s not a bad thing, it would be a stretch to call it good.

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Trolls
Animation, Comedy
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