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December 11, 2017

‘Trolls’ is an amusing family film

('Trolls' Official Facebook page)

(‘Trolls’ Official Facebook page)

“Trolls” is a fun and vibrant film that will put a smile on your face. The film is like a sugar rush with colorful scenes, characters and upbeat contemporary songs. Even though the film is based on the toy line of the same name, it manages to tell a cohesive story, even with some leaps in logic. It’s not great, but “Trolls” is still enjoyable.

The story focuses on a troll named Poppy (Anna Kendrick) who, along with every other troll, is incredibly happy and energetic. The exception is Branch (Justin Timberlake) who is always in a negative mood and afraid of attacks from the Bergens, a group of monsters who only feel happiness after eating a troll.

However, one day, when the trolls are celebrating the 20th anniversary of their escape from the Bergens, they are attacked and some trolls are captured by a Bergen named Chef (Christine Baranski). Poppy and Branch have to rescue them before they are eaten.

The film’s best element is the animation. The backgrounds are very creative and the character designs look nice as well. Character textures and backgrounds have a woolen feeling to them, like a toy play set. The palette is bright and multicolored like something out of Candy Crush Saga. However, the animation shines most in musical scenes with elaborate set pieces and energetic dance sequences.

Kendrick is well suited for Poppy, an apt voice actor for an optimistic character. Timberlake is also solid at playing a grump, even though he seems a bit miscast. Christopher Mintz-Plasse was perfectly fit for Prince Gristle, the spoiled and lazy king of the Bergens. Baranski also stands out as Chef, the evil mastermind behind the scenes.

The film mostly features covers of other songs like “September” and “The Sound of Silence,” mostly produced in the upbeat style of “Glee.” There are some original songs like “Hair Up” and “Can’t Stop the Feeling” which will never leave your head. That said, a sequence in which Timberlake and Kendrick sing Cyndi Lauper’s “True Colors” is easily one of the film’s best.

However, the biggest issue with the film is its simplicity. Because all the characters do not have much of a personality outside of their one trait there is a lack of real emotional depth, and the basic, predictable plotline eliminates any chance at suspense.

Some elements of the story are also a bit of a stretch even though the plot is mostly cohesive. The idea that Bergens have to eat trolls to be happy feels strange and nonsensical. It seems like the filmmakers really struggled to put a story together around Troll dolls so they randomly came up with this concept.

Much of the songs feel out of place, since the lyrics have barely anything to do with the movie. It’s distracting to see characters randomly bursting into song and singing covers, some of which –like “Mo Money Mo Problems” and “Clint Eastwood” by Gorillaz – are just odd choices.

“Trolls” is obvious aimed more for kids in elementary school than a college student like me. It’s upbeat, simple and has a nice message about being happy and optimistic. If you’re looking for real emotional depth and dark themes, “Trolls” is not for you, but if you want a bright piece of escapism, give it a watch.

Jon Ho can be reached at jho@umass.edu and followed on Twitter @jonathanho77.

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