More along the lines of feeling unsure what even to really say about this one. On one hand I didn’t particularly expect much given my general dislike of DreamWorks Animation (of their 33 features and the 31 that I have seen thus far, I liked eight) and the fact Trolls was based on a toy line, I was sure that they were setting themselves up for failure but to my own surprise, Trolls turned out far better than I would have suspected. I’ve given DreamWorks Animation so many chances over the years and after trudging through many forgettable stories and the occasional higher ground in terms of quality, Trolls just as always falls in the former.
Based on the toy line, what sort of story could even come about? It seems as if they were at least trying because we have a world divided between optimism (Trolls) and pessimism (Bergens), then there’s Justin Timberlake as Branch, who always pouts upon what joy he sees his peers are having. He is paired with Anna Kendrick’s Poppy, the exact opposite of Branch for instead she is a more optimistic spirit, so the typical odd couple formula is back as always. It’s not fairly uncommon to see this pairing in animated films (Pixar has done it all the time, but in manners that stand out) and to some extent there’s fine effort being established in creating this world but it doesn’t change how empty it all is.
One can look at how DreamWorks fares against their opponents in Disney or Pixar’s recent trend of computer-animated films and surprisingly for all the PG ratings that they’ve acquired over the years they’ve also shown themselves out to be so much more childish by comparison (it was evident through Shrek and the onslaught of later films) and never always in the most appealing manner (i.e. Shark Tale, Over the Hedge). And as always, Trolls goes down there just from its story alone because this nature almost feels so alienating for a family film by going down to basic concepts of happiness and sadness without offering so much of a unique spin on their effect.
It’s clear that Trolls is just a pandering effort from start to finish from the moment we have so little story even really presented in favour of being a jukebox with covers of popular songs. Loads of bright colours are what keep Trolls at least worth looking at because they certainly make for a pretty sight, but many of the covers do feel questionable at the same time. You’ll have a good song performed by Anna Kendrick then and there but suddenly there’s a moment in which she sings “The Sound of Silence” by Simon & Garfunkel and it all the more shows a more try-hard aspect on DreamWorks’s end to gain the attention of the adult viewers, something that always bothered me about their work.
The voice performers at least are giving the film their all especially when it’s most needed, notably Justin Timberlake and Anna Kendrick. The chemistry between their characters is good enough, and it’s what keeps what’ll leave one’s mind soon enough watching no matter what. Other voice performers never really seem to stand out enough for an impact to arise, for there’s Zooey Deschanel as Bridget. I’ve thought Deschanel’s efforts as a singer are fine enough when they fit for the film (notably Winnie the Pooh) but as an actress I’ve never been the fondest of hers except for a brief but crucial role she plays in Almost Famous. A whole mixed bag comes out as a result and fails to allow Trolls to stand out.
I was surprised that I didn’t come out disliking Trolls but at the same time I don’t feel any compulsion to revisit it because the impact it leaves behind is so little through and through. There’s nothing much to get worked up over, with the exception of a rather distasteful transgender joke that comes out of nowhere (I would normally be more offended at its presence in a children’s film but because of the nature it came out it just felt more baffling than ever) – because you’ll only get nothing more than just pretty colours and a collection of hit-or-miss covers of popular songs. Knowing how DreamWorks Animation usually sits with me, this could have been worse.
Watch the trailer right here.
All images via Fox.
Directed by Mike Mitchell and Walt Dohrn
Screenplay by Jonathan Aibel, Glenn Berger, from the toy line by Thomas Dam
Produced by Gina Shay
Starring Anna Kendrick, Justin Timberlake, Zooey Deschanel, Russell Brand, James Corden, Gwen Stefani
Release Year: 2016
Running Time: 93 minutes