Trolls believes that the secret to happiness is singing and dancing. Woe betide you think otherwise. Taking an all-star cast to breathe life into animated versions of those relics from the 60s – troll dolls – DreamWorks’ latest is a bit of an odd proposition; a film that appeals to parental nostalgia, but is modern enough to work for kids, blissfully unaware of corporate connotations. It’s the product of a nightmarish cycle – toys are made, then a film is made starring those toys when sales fall, thereby increasing the sale of the toys – that has given us four (soon five) Transformers movies.
Anna Kendrick plays Princess Poppy, the spiritual leader of a tribe of multi-coloured trolls. They live in the forest, having been driven out their home years ago by the miserable Bergens, who believe that eating trolls will bring them happiness. The trolls themselves are insistently happy. As well as hugging every hour, they dance, they sing, and – oh God – they rap. The only reasonable one is Branch (Justin Timberlake), a black-and-white troll whose constant reminders of their tribe’s mortal danger have led the others to shun him as a Debby Downer. But soon enough, his knowledge of the Bergens becomes useful when some trolls are kidnapped by Chef (Christine Baranski, always charismatic) and Poppy must set out to save them.
The DreamWorks films always run on one joke: “look at what this funny-looking creature is doing, they’re behaving like a human!” Kids might giggle at an anthropomorphic cactus going “Aw, snap!”, but for the adults, it tires quickly. They might also be turned off by some of the song choices – while upbeat pop is expected, literal covers of Simon and Garfunkel’s The Sound of Silence and Gorillaz’s Feel Good Inc are mildly horrifying.
Yet what makes Trolls fail on a level other than its choreography isn’t laziness, but the message. The second half of the film takes place in the Bergens’ village, where a dumpy young kitchen porter – Bridget (Zooey Deschanel) – has romantic designs on the chubby young king, Gristle (Christopher Mintz-Plasse). The trolls became her Fairy Godmother, the outward intention that “we’re all the same on the inside”. But only to a point – Bridget can still sing with pitch-perfect harmony – and only towards an ending that is insultingly positive, implying that all of life’s problems disappear with a nice dance. Don’t let anyone with depression near this thing.
Trolls is released nationwide on 21st October 2016.
Watch the trailer for Trolls here: