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Movie Review: "Trolls"

There are many movies that are worth seeing, but there are a lot of stinkers as well. My goal here is to weed out the good from the bad.

Trolls

Theatrical Release: 11/4/2016

Theatrical Release: 11/4/2016

Synopsis

Poppy (Anna Kendrick) is a troll who loves singing, dancing, cupcakes, and rainbows. Like nearly all trolls in the village, she does not seem to believe anything bad can happen. Branch (Justin Timberlake) is the only cynical troll in the village. He hates singing, dancing, and most of what the other trolls live for, and he is also always fearful of a Bergen—giant, troll eating creatures—invasion, despite the fact that there has not been a Bergen sighting in 20 years.

When Poppy decides to throw the biggest and loudest party ever, Branch warns that throwing such a party may lead to them finally being discovered by the Bergens. When all the other trolls decide to throw the party anyway, the Bergens hear it and invade the village, capturing several trolls in the process. Poppy and Branch were among those who managed to escape. Now they must set out on an adventure to save their captured friends from becoming Bergen food, but they must do so together—being two trolls who do not exactly get along.

Official Trailer

The Pros & Cons

The ProsThe Cons

Songs & Fun (+6pts)

Justin Timberlake (-3pts)

Hair & Textured Animation (+2pts)

Helpless Trolls (-5pts)

Branch & Poppy (+6pts)

Music Videos & Scrapbooking (-4pts)

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Pro: Songs & Fun (+6pts)

This movie was definitely one that will be fun for kids. It was also tolerable for an adult, such as myself, as I found some moments pretty amusing. Mostly, however, this movie was intended for young kids—who I think will love this movie from beginning to end. Then there was the great soundtrack, with songs like “True Colors” and “Can’t Stop The Feeling!”

Some of the songs will get you energized, while others played well emotionally, but all of the songs seemed to hit their desired target effectively. The movie also had silly dance routines, and a plethora of entertainingly silly characters. I also think that presenting such a vast world—filled with both silly, and dangerous creatures—opened a huge door for interesting sequels to this movie. For all of these reasons, I think that this will be a movie that kids will want to watch many times over.

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Con: Justin Timberlake (-3pts)

I am really not a fan of the fact that Justin Timberlake was cast as a lead in this film. It feels like they chose him for the sole purpose of getting one of his songs for the marketing push of this movie. Unfortunately, I did not think his voice fit as a grumpy and cynical troll. It felt so off because Anna Kendrick's voice fit her character so perfectly.

If Dreamworks really needed one of his songs, they could have done what animated movies have been doing for decades. They could have had one voice actor for the character’s dialogue, and another—Justin Timberlake—for the musical parts. Instead, they went all-in with Justin Timberlake as Branch, and I do not think it worked in the character’s favor. I just felt that Justin Timberlake was lacking the cynical tone that this character needed for so much of the movie.

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Pro: Hair & Textured Animation (+2pts)

Something I did not expect from this movie was how Dreamworks would address the wild hair on the classic pencil trolls. Their approach was pretty much to treat the hair like they were superpowers. The trolls could seemingly grow their hair infinitely at will, as well as shrink it back down. The trolls utilized this in many different ways—by using it as a disguise, treating it like long rope to grab onto things, and so much more. Dreamworks treated it creatively and I think this worked well for the movie.

I also really liked the animation style that the filmmakers went with. The trolls had a certain fuzzy texture about them, which was right in line with the texture of the classic pencil trolls. They managed to capture—-visually—-how I remembered the trolls feeling when I touched them. It made this original story feel somewhat nostalgic to the adults in the audience, but the textured animation did not stop there. Some things fluffy other things hairy. I know this probably sounds bizarre, but I thought the way that the filmmakers utilized different textures added an additional layer to this movie. It made the movie visually interesting, and I enjoyed seeing how they approached the textures of the various characters and things in this world.

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Con: Helpless Trolls (-5pts)

Another issue I had was how helpless the trolls were. The beginning of the movie showed an attack from twenty years ago, yet Branch was the only one who took the threat of a Bergen attack seriously. All the other trolls were naive and helpless. I just thought that they were portrayed as a little too ridiculous and a little too defenseless. Not only did I not care that some ridiculous trolls were in danger of being eaten, I actually kind of wanted it to happen because of how catastrophically ignorant they all were. I know that this was a kids movie so that would not have happened—and kids will most likely even enjoy the ridiculousness—I just hope that future sequels give a bit more development to the other trolls, so that they are more than just bodies for the main characters to have to save.

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Pro: Branch & Poppy (+6pts)

I actually really enjoyed the relationship between these two characters and how their attitudes impacted each other. First there was Poppy, the upbeat, song and dance loving troll whose joy made her blind to the possibility of danger. Basically, she was blissfully ignorant and naive. Then there was Branch, who was cynical, somewhat depressed, and hated all the things that the other trolls loved.

The two characters were then forced together for the plot of this movie, and I enjoyed seeing how their personalities affected one another. Poppy’s personality was definitely too much for Branch to handle at times, and Branch’s personality was definitely a bummer for Poppy at others. This was a kids movie, so you would expect Poppy’s personality to bring Branch out of his cynical depression by the end. Whether that happened or not is irrelevant, but I enjoyed seeing how the filmmakers played with the idea—that personalities can be contagious—through these trolls’ story together.

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Con: Music Videos & Scrapbooking (-4pts)

The whole beginning of the movie was basically full of a bunch of random music videos. I am sure that I kids will love it, but adults will most likely find it annoying. There did not seem to be a reason for the singing, aside from showing just how drastically different Branch was from everyone else in the village. Additionally, the movie would cut—multiple times—to Poppy narrating a very cheap looking scrapbook movie. You will know what I mean if you have seen the movie.

It was clearly meant to shove exposition at the audience, as quickly as possible. In that respect the scrapbooking worked. However, the transitions from the story to the constant singing and scrapbooking made the beginning of the story feel random and meaningless. Fortunately, after about 10-15 minutes, the frequency of the singing and scrapbooking died down, allowing the story to feel a lot more coherent.

Grading Scale

GradeCategoryPoints

A+

Amazing

95-100

A-

Great

90-94

B+

Good

85-89

B-

Decent

80-84

C+

Average

75-79

C-

Watchable

70-74

D+

Bad

65-69

D-

Terrible

60-64

F

Garbage

45-59

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Grade: C+ (77pts)

Trolls was a decent enough kids movie. Adults will find the movie to be okay at best, but kids will absolutely adore it. I know that I am not part of this movie's demographic, so I know that no child will be the least bit concerned with any of the issues that I had with Trolls. Kids will love the many catchy songs and dance sequences. They will love all the silly characters and what they can do with their hair. Lastly, kids will love the crazy and colorful world that this movie introduced.

My recommendation is that if you have any kids in your life under the age of seven or eight, take them to this movie. They will love it, and I—an adult—found it to be tolerable. Will adults without kids enjoy this movie? No, I do not think so. I think it was effective at entertaining its target audience, and I am smelling many sequels to this movie down the road.