If Trolls were a dessert, it’d be a chocolate-dipped peanut butter cup-stuffed Oreo. It’s treacly, and then some more. For a while, I understood why Branch (Justin Timberlake) feels the way he does. He’s a paranoid disgruntled troll amid a ludicrously happy bunch of his species, who pause to hug each other only so they don’t lose out on time to sing and dance. Their happiness, which positively explodes from the inside — radiating its EDM festival-like light into the world — is presented as an ideal. It’s one which the villain community, the perpetually sullen Bergens, believe they can achieve only by eating these miniature trolls. The Bergens are the real trolls, in the conventional sense of the word. They are unattractive, dull and violent. And for the purposes of the story, they are dreadfully unhappy except, of course, when they eat a troll. You know how you sometimes laugh yourself silly when on a sugar-high; it’s something like that, I presume.
Director: Mike Mitchell
Cast: Anna Kendrick, Justin Timberlake, Zooey Deschanel, Russell Brand, Gwen Stefani
Storyline: Princess Poppy must set out on a journey to rescue her kind after an invasion by the evil Bergens
Runtime: 93 min
In another more serious film, you’d have at least one scene of a troll being eaten. But Trolls is a quintessential children’s film, and so any potential cruelty is only implied, like in Branch’s flashback. Every once in a while, the characters break out into a song like in musicals. And while I’m not particularly fond of the genre, thanks to being overexposed to regional films high on song and dance, I quite enjoyed the routines in Trolls . Save for one at the end, almost all the songs are upbeat, even the one that Princess Poppy (Anna Kendrick) sings as she’s almost near death. It is that sort of film. But Trolls is often such an unabashed explosion of colours and lights that I couldn’t but be taken in. Happiness, however, retains value only in the co-existence of a contrasting emotion. In that sense, even though Poppy undergoes a bit of a transformation at the end, the story I cared for the most is Branch’s, despite his rather hurried, ineffective flashback. It is he, more than the Bergens, who has to come around.
There’s also a love story in the second half that is supposed to act as the healing force for the Bergens. But the most disappointing is the uninspired characterisation of the villainess, Chef (Christine Baranski). Any potential reformation she’s implied to have undergone towards the end, along with all the other Bergens, isn’t convincing at all. Surely, the sudden turnaround must take a lot more than the trolls, a snack sought after by the Bergens for over 20 years, saying, “Hey guys, don’t eat us, okay? Just feel happy from within.”
However, it isn’t every day that you get an animation film which comes with a novel, enjoyable universe. The trolls are amusing creatures in the same cutesy mould as the minions, even if not as entertaining.
I just wish that the film had been a lot more fun, and perhaps, less preachy. But that’s like wishing that a chocolate-dipped peanut butter cup-stuffed Oreo were less sweet. It is what it is, and you’ll love it if you have the taste for it.
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