Film review by Jason Day of Trolls, the Dreamworks animation about a Troll princess and her companion who set out to rescue a friend from being eaten by their nemesis. Featuring the voices of Anna Kendrick and Justin Timberlake.
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Troll Princess Poppy (Anna Kendrick) sets off with her callow friend Branch (Justin Timberlake) to rescue their troll friends who have been kidnapped by the Bergen’s, perpetually depressed monsters who can only experience happiness when they eat Trolls. Along the way and with many songs and dance numbers and much hair-flinging, Poppy and Branch help King Gristle of the Bergen’s (Christopher Mintz-Plasse) fall in love with dowdy chambermaid Bridget (Zooey Deschanel)
Review, by Jason Day
There’s a story I read in Barry Paris’ estimable biography of movie goddess Greta Garbo (published 1990) that is directly relatable to the movie Trolls.
Bear with me on this point, for within the pages of what I fondly call ‘the bible’ (in terms of not only Ms Garbo, but practically everything you need to know about the Hollywood studio system between 1924-1941, poverty in turn of the century Stockholm and how to party with the hoi polloi without having to spend very much in the process) is a story about the little plastic trolls with the long, wildly coloured hair and ugly, pixie faces you used to be able to buy in any toy shop in the 1980’s and 1990’s.
A friend of hers visited her apartment and, quite by accident, noticed a little community of these toy trolls hidden underneath her sofa. Astonished at such a find in the property of this otherwise most serious and aloof of cinema personalities, he kept quiet about his discovery. When he next visited, he found that the trolls had moved and were secreted elsewhere in her living room.
So, Greta Garbo played with toy plastic dolls when she was alone. Her friend never let on to her that he knew.
Quite why she indulged in such activities is something the great lady took to the grave with her when she died in 1990 but, had she lived to 2016 (and the grand old age of 111), she may well have nipped into a cinema to see this Dreamworks animated piece.
Would she have enjoyed it? It’s best with such films to leave those of its core demographic, children aged between 4 and 12, to cast the deciding vote. They won’t try disassembling the piece and analysing it for deeper meaning, cultural references or the value of the production. They will literally look at whether it makes them laugh. Parents will be happy if it keeps the kids quiet and still for 90 minutes.
For the screening I attended, it was difficult to gauge people’s reactions as, whilst the kids managed to more or less stay in their seats, there was precious little audience engagement or outward enjoyment.
The plot may have been a little too complicated for the very small ones, taking in elements of Cinderella and more modern, Oprah Winfrey psycho-self help mantras about being yourself, relaxing and enjoying life.
For the adults, perhaps they cottoned on that the trolls are 24 hour party people who have clearly ingested too much disco glitter.
For certain though, irrespective of one’s age, you’d have to be a true, professional curmudgeon to resist smiling and tapping your feet along to the likes of Donna Summer and Justin Timberlake (who also voices the character of Branch).
For in amongst the dayglo, fuzzy-felt, fluorescent fantasy world the filmmakers have created, there are a few decent laughs and the mesmerising colour scheme at least matches the perky, upbeat songs that pepper the film.
Cast & credits
Directors: Mike Mitchell, Walt Dohrn. 92 mins. Dreamworks. (U).
Producers: Gina Shay.
Writers: Jonathan Aibel, Glenn Berger.
Camera: Yong Duk Jhun.
Music: Kendal Cronkhite.
Anna Kendrick, Zooey Deschanel, Justin Timberlake, Christine Baranski, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, James Corden, Jeffrey Tambor, Gwen Stefani, John Cleese, Russell Brand.