Monday 5 April 2021

On demand: "Trolls"

Nothing to do with Internet aggressors, Trolls is the sort of thing 21st century Hollywood appears more confident about making and selling than practically anything else: a zappy animated showcase for the sometime pencil-toppers with the big hair, reimagined by the DreamWorks digimators as all-singing, all-dancing glitterbombers and cupcake-shitters. (Smiths and Joy Division fans need not apply.) To its credit, the script (by Jonathan Aibel and Glenn Berger, from a story by Erica Rivinoja) starts with a common-or-garden quest narrative - sending a mismatched pair out to rescue friends kidnapped by the troll-munching Bergens - only to develop, in its child-friendly way, into a Candide-like philosophical dialogue, pitching Poppy (voice: Anna Kendrick), a pink-accessorised pocket Pollyanna, against Branch (Justin Timberlake), a dark-haired droopy draws with his own personal panic bunker. No surprise who quickly gains the upper hand - but then the film's keynote is positivity: everybody has something to learn, and even Branch gets a hug, whether he really wants it or not.

The fizzy wit of those Lord-Miller collaborations (Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, The Lego Movie) is beyond its grasp; it's going for goofy, gets there early, and then mostly sustains it. For a film about novelty keyrings, the digimation is surprisingly well-worked, attaining not just colour but character, in part because it seems somebody programmed these computers to mimic the look of Laika or Aardman's stopmotion. (One especially nice touch: the pastel draining out of Poppy after she realises "the world isn't all cupcakes and rainbows".) The later Illuminations hit Sing would snap up far more crowdpleasers, but the songs here operate on the level of cheerful pablum. (Timberlake chips in "Can't Stop the Feeling", one of his better solo efforts.) We get scenesetting via Gorillaz's "Clint Eastwood", a kitsch revival of Lionel Richie's "Hello" for a supporting character whose fate you become weirdly invested in, several welcome deviations into 1970s funk and disco, and a Troll remix of Junior Senior's "Move Your Feet", the film's almost exact pop equivalent. If nothing else, your youngsters should come away with full iPods, or whatever kids are now listening to their music on; a sequel, Trolls World Tour, made history of a sort by becoming the first major studio release to pivot to streaming in the pandemic year of 2020.

Trolls is available to rent via Prime Video, and on DVD through Universal.

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