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« Laura Dern Week: Rambling Rose (1991)| Main| Pictures from the Oscar Luncheon »
Tuesday
Feb 07 2017

DVD Review: Trolls

Tim here.Today marks the DVD/Blu-ray release ofTrolls,the 33rd feature film and only the second musical made by DreamWorks Animation,and a recent Best Original Song Oscar nominee (and if I may say so,the wrong song got honored,but whatever).

We haven't talked about the film much at all here at TFE,and this seemed like the best possible reason to correct that lapse.For a lapse it is: despite its 100% boilerplate plot,vaguely inspired by a line of toys that haven't been popular in more than two decades,and its wall-to-wall "pop songs and dance parties"structure,Trollsis,like,pretty good,y'all.It is,undoubtedly,assembled according to some Modern Kiddie Cartoon Mad-Libs: a crabby outsider,from a community dominated by one personality trait,finds himself in the position of being forced to save the day when catastrophe hits.By the end of the movie's trim 92 minutes,we've learned that real happiness was inside of you all along,and true beauty comes from confidence in being yourself.

It's not exactly that the filmmakers behindTrolls(directors Mike Mitchell and Walt Dohrn and screenwriters Jonathan Aibel & Glenn Berger,of theKung Fu Pandas but also theAlvin and the Chipmunkses) revitalize this ancient form.Rather,they pack the film with so many inspired fiddly bits that it's easy to like the good and simply ignore the bad...

The good,in this case,starts with Anna Kendrick and Justin Timberlake (who also wrote the original songs and produced the soundtrack),both having an audibly fun time as,respectively,the manic troll princess Poppy,and the misanthropic Branch,forced together to save their people from a race of carnivorous ogres (the most carnivorous of whom is voiced by Christine Baranski,who hasn't been so inspired in anything inyears).

They're a pretty great pair to headline what amounts to an upbeat jukebox musical,one that's really mostly about having fun pairing slightly unconventional arrangements of enormously conventional songs with bright colors – it is,really,a summertime pop hit given movie form,and indeed Timberlake's Oscar-nominated "Can't Stop the Feeling!"was precisely such a song.Anyway,the film's narrative explicitly hinges on the fact that singing along with easy songs is a hell of a lot of fun,so it's all good.

Also good: the film's animation and design,which is unbelievably creative.I can't name any one of DWA's 32 previous films that used the animation medium itself in such creative ways (How to Train Your Dragonand its sequel are prettier and more complex,but not more creative).Perhaps taking its cues from Poppy's incessant scrapbooking,perhaps positioning itself inside the imagination of some never-seen child,Trollstakes place in a world made entirely of cloth and handicrafts.The characters are slightly fuzzy,like plush toys or flocked plastic,they wear clothes made out of what's obviously felt,the natural world is a riot of cotton balls and scraps of woolen blankets and reclaimed socks.Even the night sky is full of perfect little five-point stars,like glow-in-the-stickers on a sheet of blue paper.It is,all told,one of the most splendidly designed animated worlds that any major studio has produced in the age of 3D CGI,tactile and tangible,feeling like something that genuinely evokes childhood imagination,rather than adults attempting to force imagination onto children.And to explore this world,the directors indulge in a series of sweeping,big,weightless camera movements that have more energy than virtually any American animated film this decade.

I should certainly hold back from going crazy and saying that this is enough to makeTrollsa great film.No film with such a barbarically routine screenplay could ever begreat.But it is remarkably likable,and that's already quite an achievement,given everything stacked against it.It's utterly endearing to look at it,the overstuffed soundtrack is fun and appropriately mindless,and even if the characters go through arcs that are pre-ordained from the instant that we meet them,at least they're enjoyable company.It's all a bit sugary and lightweight,and I think it's more or less designed to make Kendrick seem unbearably cloying if you find her even a little bit annoying (which I think is not likely to be true of a majority of TFE readers).But it's better than just good enough for parents to watch with their kids.Certainly,as a fan of inventive animation design,I'd put this on par with any other animated feature of 2016 for sheer visual delight.

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Reader Comments (10)

So,just one question: Better than The Angry Birds Movie?

February 7,2017 | Unregistered CommenterVolvagia

I really enjoyed this movie,which was a surprise.And it has the third best scene of any movie I saw last year (True Colors,which became a magical moment).

February 7,2017 | Unregistered CommenterPedro

I have not seen this film but unlike what Tim said it looks prettier than How to Train Your Dragon films.

February 7,2017 | Unregistered CommenterChinoiserie

I kind of loved how it knew that it was obnoxious as hell.It seemed like the only mission was to make you happy (and get you to buy a Build-A-Bear Troll on the way out),but I dug it more than I thought I would.

February 7,2017 | Unregistered CommenterJoey

You had me at Christine Baranski.

February 7,2017 | Unregistered CommenterCraver

I'm assuming "Get Back Up Again"is the song you're referring to and I agree.It's fitting to the film and not just a pop song.

February 7,2017 | Unregistered CommenterMorgan.

I'm assuming "Get Back Up Again"is the song you're referring to and I agree.It's fitting to the film and not just a pop song.

February 7,2017 | Unregistered CommenterMorgan.

I love this film and I thought I would hate it.The songs made me happy.

February 7,2017 | Unregistered CommenterheikoS

It's enjoyable and kids will love it.I too thought the animation was superb.Some scenes could have been confused for stop-motion given how realistic the felt textures appeared.I enjoyed the two original songs in their contexts.

I thought it was clearly inspired,in some of its design as well as its humour,by Lord and Miller's CLOUDY WITH A CHANCE OF MEATBALLS and THE LEGO MOVIE,but there are worse films to be inspired by.I enjoyed the voice work of Baranski and Kendrick.The "Can't Stop This Feeling"number was a delightful way to end the film and when I saw it I knew it'd be nominated.

February 7,2017 | Unregistered CommenterGlenn Dunks

I saw TROLLS in the theater and liked it.There's a positive message,but they don't hit you over the head with it.

"Get Back Up Again"is almost like a parody of the requisite Disney song when the hero/ine sings a self-pep-talk.A good example of this is "How Far I'll Go"from MOANA,which came out a few weeks later,and was Oscar-nominated.

February 7,2017 | Unregistered CommenterBrevity

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