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A Great Soundtrack Wrapped in an Explosion of Frosting and Glitter

cover Upon first glance Trolls looks like it’s got all the tools to be something epic in the vein of DreamWorks films like Shrek: A classic fantasy element, great soundtrack, themes of love conquering all etc. However, while some films become more classic-destined with repeated viewings, Trolls’ shortcomings become continually more apparent. But before we delve into such things, let’s take a look at the facts.

Trolls is a 2016 American 3D computer-animated musical adventure romantic comedy film based on the Troll dolls created by Thomas Dam. The film was directed by Mike Mitchell and co-directed by Walt Dohrn, written by Jonathan Aibel and Glenn Berger and based on a story by Erica Rivinoja.

It is the 33rd animated feature film produced by DreamWorks Animation and was released theatrically in the United States on November 4, 2016, by 20th Century Fox. The film grossed $342 million worldwide (up from its $125 million budget) and received an Academy Award nomination for Best Original Song for Timberlake’s “Can’t Stop the Feeling!”. As is the case with most DreamWorks films that turn a profit theatrically, a sequel is in the works and scheduled to be released in 2020.
The story here tells of two feuding mythical races- the trolls and the bergens. The trolls, in case their presence in pop-culture for multiple decades has somehow eluded you, are the tiny, bright, crazy-haired happy pencil-toppers while the bergens are the large, lumbering, warty double-chinned miserable creatures that, quite frankly, usually match the definition of a troll in any other mythology.

Somehow in their sorted history, it was discovered that if a bergen ate a troll, they would temporarily taste their infectious happiness and developed an annual holiday around the capturing and eating of live trolls called Trollstice.

The trolls have managed to keep themselves hidden from the bergens for 20 years, but when they hold a raging party that ends up giving themselves away, and the bergens go on a rampage, looking for Trolls to capture and chomp.

From here it’s a search and rescue movie where trolls Princess Poppy (Anna Kendrick) and Branch (Justin Timberlake) go on a musically laced adventure in effort to free their captive friends before chomp time.

Unfortunately the narrative itself lacks any real depth or cleverness, instead opting to flood its viewer with the strangely addicting combination of a color/ texture overload with solid renditions of many classic songs.

Thankfully there is some DreamWorks-style attention paid to attempts at humor all throughout; one particular segment involving a striped gym-socks sporting cloud named Cloud Guy is almost worth the price of admission alone. Almost.
At the end of the day, all of the pieces come together for the Shrek-style happily ever after even if much of the voyage itself is largely forgettable. The colors and music will be enough to keep younger kids entertained (assuming the whole “getting eaten alive” element doesn’t terrify them off first) and adults are sure to find themselves smirking at a few of the encounters along the way so long as no one goes in expecting Pixar-style heart or even past DreamWorks’ franchise cleverness.

The experience of Trolls is a lot like getting full on cake- a little too sweet and hollow to be one’s entire meal. But then again it looks like like they’ll have a chance to redeem themselves for any shortcomings in this one come 2020. Might want to start skipping out on dessert now.