By Daniele Foti-Cuzzola
After the major box office successes of Transformers, G.I. Joe and The Lego Movie comes Trolls, the latest toy franchise to transition from toy store to the big screen.
Although Trolls is based on a top-selling toy, the film is anything short of original. Boasting stunning visuals, a toe-tapping soundtrack and the voices of some of Hollywood’s A-list, including Pitch Perfect’s Anna Kendrick and pop star Justin Timberlake, Trolls is a light-hearted movie that the whole family will enjoy.
The film transports viewers to the colourful and delightful land of Troll Village, where trolls happily sing, dance and hug till their hearts are content. But on the eve of their biggest party to date, the trolls are invaded by the evil Bergens; a grotesque looking species, who believe their only way to ever experience happiness is by eating a troll. After her friends and family have been kidnapped, the optimistic Princess Poppy (Kendrick), teams up with the reluctant Branch (Timberlake) to save her kingdom, her friends and her family.
From the opening scene, Trolls will captivate viewers of all ages.
Directors Mike Mitchell and Walt Dohrn have created a mind-blowingly imaginative environment where every tree, plant and building resembles a combination of treats you would find in a lolly store or resources from your childhood craft kit. In one visually dazzling scene, Poppy talks about the history of the trolls via her scrapbook. The scene, complete with Kendrick’s optimistic delivery and the visuals of the detailed fabrics, instantly brings back memories of the carefree days of making crafts with felt in primary school. Part of Trolls’ charm for older viewers is its ability to transport you back to your childhood.
The dazzling visuals of Trolls Village in comparison to the glum world of the Bergen’s reinforces the film’s conflict. The predator vs prey storyline has been done before in animation, most recently in Disney’s Zootopia, which was released to universal acclaim earlier this year for its profound social commentary on race. Trolls does not have the same emotional depth as Zootopia, nor is it ground-breaking as the film caters to a younger audience. However, Trolls reinforces the importance of finding happiness within and features a humorous though somewhat misplaced Cinderella inspired subplot, involving a Bergen scullery maid who has fallen in love with the Bergen King.
Nevertheless, the film is not without its sincere moments. The standout sequence is when Timberlake’s Branch sings a cover of Cyndi Lauper’s True Colours to reignite Poppy’s optimistic spark. Timberlake’s soulful crooning, combined with the animation makes it an utterly heartfelt moment that packs a heavy emotional punch.
Trolls also features a number of renditions of other classic songs including hilarious covers of Lionel Richie’s Hello and Simon & Garfunkel’s The Sound of Silence. The film is a jukebox musical in lieu of Moulin Rouge! and Happy Feet, in that it uses pre-existing pop songs in the context of the story. Yet it also features several original songs, including the global smash Can’t Stop The Feeling, which Timberlake wrote specifically for the film. The infectious tune and uplifting scene will have you tapping your feet and grinning from ear to ear.
While Trolls boasts an impressive all-star cast, the phrase quantity over quality comes to mind. Aside from Timberlake, Kendrick and Zooey Deschanel’s Bergen maid Bridget, the rest of the cast including Gwen Stefani, Russell Brand and John Cleese have practically cameo appearances. And while their characters seem like an interesting bunch, the script doesn’t allow us to get to know them, which also results in a lack of dramatic tension throughout the film.
The Bergens may frighten younger viewers, and the plot might leave older viewers a little underwhelmed, but with pitch-perfect voice acting, stunning visuals and catchy tunes, Trolls is movie magic.