I think what we all need right now (besides a total overhaul of the American political system and a lifetime in prison for Donald Trump) is a little happiness in our lives. It was not a mistake or coincidence that I chose this particular animated film to watch tonight. It looked to be bright, fluffy, fun and energetic and that’s all I could really stomach at this moment. Did it measure up or was it mostly just for kids?
The plot focuses on a number of trolls (yes, like the dolls), who are always extremely happy and jovial, that manage to coordinate an escape from a group of miserable creatures known as the Bergens. The Bergens, thinking that eating the trolls will allow them to consume their happiness and become happy themselves, become enraged after the trolls escape and then fire the head chef over the whole ordeal. Twenty years later, Poppy (Anna Kendrick) attempts to lead the trolls in a melee of singing and dancing, one of the trolls, Branch (Justin Timberlake) is more of a realist and thinks that they should be weary of Bergens possibly hearing and/or capturing them. This of course leads to a capture and so Poppy and Branch must organize a rescue mission to get their friends back.
This is an animated movie geared mostly at kids so the writing is not off-the-wall amazing or anything but it is perfectly suitable for the target demographic. One good thing is that the film contains a pretty simple positive message. While it acts as a criticism of naivete in a way, it also teaches its viewers that happiness must be something that you achieve on your own. The story itself besides the message is a pretty straight-forward rescue story with lots of funny characters to keep one entertained and some cute chemistry (if there can be chemistry among cartoon characters) between the characters portrayed by Kendrick and Timberlake. One thing that I didn’t expect to be so strong was how the story progressed in the second half as the Bergens are not altogether represented as one-dimensional characters. They, like much of us, simply want to be happy and believe that eating these cute little trolls is the only way in which they can achieve that goal. There are other cute little details like Timberlake’s character not wanting to sing (albeit for a very dark and somewhat disturbing reason).
Acting is a tough category to break down in an animated film since you’re only getting vocal performances and not the “full package” as it were. Having said that, Justin Timberlake and Anna Kendrick are very good as the leads. Justin is more of a bitter character for much of the film which plays nicely against expectations while Kendrick is adorable and bubbly, which she pulls off once again. Other highlights include Christine Baranski as the villainous chef; she pulls off a very evil voice and an intimidating one at the same time; Zooey Deschanel as a kindly Bergen is almost unrecognizable but also fits in very well; Russell Brand has a small but pivotal role and is quite funny while it’s also nice to see James Corden show up in another movie – love that dude.
This is an area where the film really flourishes. The animation is stunning and the colours are so vibrant and energetic that it’s almost enough on its own to get you in the mood of the film without even the fun voice work and funny script. One thing that also stands out here is how the musical numbers are staged. I believe there was only one original song while the rest were goofy covers but the way in which the screen comes alive during these moments is infectious. I think my favourite was probably a very lively number near the end of the film in which Timberlake sings True Colors alongside Anna Kendrick and the trolls begin to gain colour in their bodies.
It’s a very entertaining film with a great message for kids and it’s something you can watch if you’re looking to brighten your day. It’s not going to cure cancer but it’s a good time at the movies.
FINAL RATING: *** ½
* (Brutal; the worst rating)
** (Some elements keep it from being awful but still not very good)
*** (Completely watchable; a rental as old-timers might say)
**** (Great film with a few things here and there keeping it from being perfect)
***** (Flawless; a true achievement)