Movie Review: ‘Trolls’ takes you to a ‘candy-colored world’ that’s not too bad
Writing this review is a struggle.
I don’t want to be in front of a computer screen right now. I’m not sure I want to be anywhere right now. If I could, I would crawl right into the cinematic universe of “Police Academy 6: City Under Siege” and stand on the back of a monster truck perpetually shouting “yee-haw” for no particular reason while a crazy cop stands next to me and pretends to be a robot, also for no reason.
I’m so drained, exhausted and defeated that the idea of being negative about a children’s movie based on a once-popular toyline seems like hitting a baby with a larger baby.
For one brief shining moment I want to be nice.
Granted, years of approaching everything with an ironic distance or a sense of severe misplaced rage has left me unsure what ‘nice’ is, but I think it has to do with giving any movie I see at least three Ws? Does that sound right? Whatever. I’m trying.
So, for the first time as a movie reviewer and – more importantly – as a person, I will be accentuating the positive. Nothing mean or back-handed will be pounded into this review with the fury that’s usually reserved for similarly benign targets like Ron Howard or Charlie Chaplin. I will be as sweet and kind as anyone who has flipped off their reflection more than once can be.
Let’s ignore the story: Trolls have to teach bigger trolls not to eat them because true happiness comes not through cannibalism but through shared experience as glitter farting monstrosities. Let’s also ignore the recycled soundtrack, and that “Trolls” stars Justin Timberlake, and focus completely on the most superficial details.
“Trolls” is a very colorful movie. Colorful in a way that’s jarring and weirdly beautiful. The look of “Trolls” falls somewhere in between a title sequence from a Wes Anderson movie and a John Wayne Gacy painting. Or it could even be what could be running through Zooey Deschanel’s head if she kept 11 student-nurses locked in her banjo closet.
A dark streak runs through the sunny exterior of this movie. During its 92-minute running time, a clown’s coffin is obliviously desecrated, a bored goblin lies in a grave as he lazily buries himself and characters are literally shitting out delightful baked goods which are then offered as snacks. It’s baby nihilism at its finest and I loved it.
Unlike other Dreamworks features that rely a bit too heavily on the animation studio’s bland house style, the character design of “Trolls” is distinctive. The evil Borgens that repeatedly attempt to consume the Trolls look like a cross between a Ronald Searle caricature and an Ed “Big Daddy” Roth grotesquery. Even peripheral characters like a smug, half-asleep looking cloud man and the menagerie of imaginary beasts in the background that appear to be made out of felt and pipe cleaners add more depth to this film universe.
“Trolls” deserves credit for mostly abstaining from the easy pop-cultural gags and references that turned the “Shrek” series into a quickly dated endurance test. “Trolls” is not a future classic. It won’t be talked about in the same breath of even the mediocre Pixar movies. But it’s perfectly fine entertainment and in this day and age, that’s enough.
If you want your children, or even yourself, to escape into a harmless candy-colored world for just a little while, you could do a hell of a lot worse.
Mike Sullivan is a movie reviewer for Weekender. Movie reviews appear weekly in Weekender.
Starring: Justin Timberlake, Anna Kendrick
Directors: Mike Mitchell, Walt Dohrn
Weekender Rating: WWV
Length: 92 minutes