Dreamworks animation films have always differentiated themselves from the works of Pixar, Laika and Blu Sky. Dreamworks films are littered with pop culture references, they’re kind of loud and more ‘zippy’ in nature, and have much less interesting stories than the competition. The trend continues with their new film Trolls, yet another good-looking, mildly funny but ultimately forgettable movie.
Directed by Mike Mitchell who has earlier made such films as Deuce Bigelow Male Gigolo and Surviving Christmas, Trolls is pretty much on par with both those films when it comes to humour. The good news is that he’s also made an Alvin and the Chipmunks movie and the final and worst Shrek film, but this one is much better than either of those.
The treatment of Trolls makes you feel like Dreamworks saw the Minions movie and thought that’s the formula that needs to be replicated with a much bigger budget. We’re introduced to the Trolls — the most enthusiastic creatures to have ever existed, vibrant and chirpy to a fault. They’re in fact so cheerful that a group of depressed creatures called the Bergens eat the trolls to feel happy. After a period of living Bergen-free a bunch of trolls start disappearing and our two heroes, the glum Branch (Justin Timberlake) and Princess Poppy (Anna Kendrick) set off on a search to rescue their friends.
On the bright side the film is amazing to look at, and it’s a wild ride especially for small children who will be entertained by the sheer color scheme and the over the top nature of the characters. There’s always something bumping, or falling, or moving funnily or talking in a ‘cartoonish’ manner to satisfy the young ones looking to be distracted. It’s also not a painfully dull movie for adults and they might just ignore the lack of jokes meant for grownups and slide through the zany narrative. It’s also a relatively short film so you won’t get too bored to accompany your kid to the theater.
The first of the big problems, however, is how generic this movie feels. At times it feels less like a movie and more like a market research paper turned into an animation product. With a barrage of terrible pop songs there’s a ‘packaged commodity’ vibe to the whole movie, a commercial parcel that makes you feel entertained for a while but never really an art form stays with you after you leave the theater. Also kids who have seen the Minions film won’t find anything more fun in this movie despite the amazing color scheme. The second issue is the ‘message’ of friendship and kinship that is shoehorned into the narrative that would not register with young kids and make the grownups rolls their eyes.
Ultimately Trolls is more a film that be watched on DVD at home with your kids. The 3D will definitely give you a headache because of the crazy visuals and so will the terrible covers of famous songs. If you still need to see it you could savor the 2D version, or just head over to the other screen and watch Doctor Strange.