Thursday, January 05, 2017

‘Trolls’ Is Terribly Predictable, but Not Necessarily Terrible

The animated movie Trolls is based on the dolls of the same name.  It’s kind of an obscure product now, but I’m old enough to remember how popular it was back in the day.  In fact, when I first saw the initial teasers for this film, I’m actually disappointed that the titular Trolls of this movie don’t have the iconic look of the toys.  I thought the character design for the movie’s depiction of the Trolls made them look like cheap Smurfs knockoffs.

Trolls is about a community of Trolls – tiny, colorful, extremely jolly creatures who are constantly singing, dancing, and hugging – who is led by their King Peppy (Jeffrey Tambor) to escape a life of being devoured by the Bergen – ugly, ogre-like creatures who eat Trolls to feel happiness.  Years later, King Peppy’s daughter, Princess Poppy (Anna Kendrick), leads the Trolls in perpetual celebration of their sappy, cheery, musical nature.  However, when a loud, bright Troll party leads the vengeful, banished Bergen Chef (Christine Baranski) to find their location and capture her people, Poppy has to seek the help of a gloomy, gray, survivalist Troll named Branch (Justin Timberlake) to accompany her to Bergen Town to rescue the rest of the Trolls.
The movie annoyed me at first.  It starts off in a predictable path; and I found Poppy and her friends very irksome that I even kind of rooted for the Bergen to eat them; and the utilization of past and present pop music gave the movie more of a sense of artificiality about it rather than a sense of charm.

Thankfully, it eventually got better.  And I even see a kind of “genius” in the whole thing.

Because everything about the movie annoyed me, I gravitated towards the cynical Branch.  Thus, the character began to reflect my mood for the movie.  I related to the character.  At the same time, as I related to him, I also began to reflect his emotional journey in the narrative.  As he developed gradually to becoming more relaxed and optimistic, I also became so.  So when the time came that Branch finally embraced the bright, merry nature of being a Troll, I had also somewhat embraced the movie for what it is.  By the time Justin Timberlake began singing the opening lines of Phil Collin’s “True Colors”, I found organic satisfaction – even a tinge of heartwarming goosebumps – from the sequence.
The story never strays from a predictable path though.  It doesn’t dare to wander off from its simple, conventional “children’s story” blueprint.  Every story beat and every resolution exactly turn out as what’s anticipated.  This hinders it from being something more.

And, oh, the original toy look of the Trolls which I preferred to see?  It had a cameo briefly and early in the movie.

Trolls didn’t quite win me over.  But it did convince me that it’s a colorful, musical adventure that, though is more effectively enjoyable to kids, is also reasonably fun for adults.

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