Here’s Justin Timberlake promoting Trolls in Australia this weekend. Here’s my review of Trolls.
Reviving the soul-sucking demon-toys, Trolls is set inside an acid flashback at a rave you went to in 1997. It’s bright, it’s BRIGHT, it’s so bright your retinas will sting and you will be seeing color spots for hours after the movie. It’s the kind of flashy brightness that makes me suspect ulterior motives, like subliminal messaging—this whole thing might be an elaborate ad for Fruity Oaty Bars. But within the brightness is some amazing mixed-media animation, with some gorgeously rendered textures from the nubbly Troll skin to the cobwebs-and-cotton-candy Troll hair the felt and construction paper backgrounds. The approximately three hundred thousand animators and illustrators that worked on this movie deserve a round of applause.
The plot of Trolls is that you buy your kids Troll dolls for Christmas. Okay, seriously, the plot—and I use that term loosely—is that the Trolls live in a rainbow-and-glitter utopia that is really an exiled land because they fled the “Bergens”, which are, unfortunately, not a race of Candice Bergens, but Sendakian monsters who eat Trolls in order to feel happiness. Yeah, whoa is right—that’s a BIT dark. Trolls kinda slides into Last Unicorn territory here, but unlike that movie, which revels in the strange and the macabre, Trolls pastes a bright pink sticker-smile over its inner pain and darkness and keeps on singin’. This movie is the Lisa Frank sticker book covering our election pain.
Princess Poppy (Anna Kendrick) is the bright (BRIGHT) pink speed-freak leader of the Trolls whose relentless, incessant, torturous happiness attracts the Bergens who once again eat Trolls to feel happiness. Also, some Trolls fart and sh*t glitter and cupcakes, and I presume they also spit poisonous rainbow-acid that forces you to feel manic happiness and dance until your feet are worn down to bone at which point you collapse and they swarm you and devour your flesh. Nothing this forcibly happy could ever be anything less than unutterably evil.
In order to save her fellow Trolls, Princess Poppy teams up with Branch (Pipsqueak McMeMeMe), the lone surly Troll who is also grey-blue and doesn’t have the same weaponized happiness as Princess Poppy and the other Trolls. Justin Timberlake is a horrible voice actor who delivers every line like he’s reading a book to a child he doesn’t particularly like. The right casting here is someone like Patton Oswalt, who can affect both lonerish despair and reluctant affection for his fellow cheer-monsters. But Branch, as voiced by Pipsqueak Popinjay, sounds like the robot assistant built into your car—it sounds friendly, but it also doesn’t know what emotions are.
The music in Trolls is programmed by your local karaoke bar and sung like everyone’s getting paid REALLY WELL. Most of the songs are cover arrangements, but there’s also Pipper’s terrible “Happy” knock-off—the happiest Trolls will make adults is when Pip-Pop loses at the Oscars next year. (Lainey: PLEASE GOD JUST LET US HAVE THIS.) But the soundtrack is sure to delight kids who don’t see Moana.
On the Kids Movie Tolerability Index, Trolls is closer to Minions than The LEGO Movie—your kids will love it, you will only somewhat be able to tolerate it. (Zootopia it is not.) If you’re a black-hearted crank like me, you won’t be able to tolerate it all, but the sight of blissed-out four year olds ought to be enough to keep the worst of your impulse to drown yourself in your gallon-cup of Coke at bay. Also, the fact that Justin Timberlake is a TERRIBLE voice actor ought to bring some comfort on cold winter nights.