Trolls Parent Review
Parents may find themselves smiling a little more during this animated marketing vehicle than the care to confess.
Admittedly I went into this screening feeling a little frowny. Here we have yet another animation looking to unload shipping containers full of franchised merchandise just in time for the holiday season. Humbug! But be forewarned if you are entertaining a similar attitude. You may find yourself smiling a little more during this film than you care to confess.
Princess Poppy (voice of Anna Kendrick), daughter of the beloved King Peppy (voice of Jeffrey Tambor) is a little Troll that may remind you of a ditsy roommate you had in college. She’s infused with a positive attitude that bubbles over into complete naivety. Leading the equally effervescent population of the kingdom, all she and the rest of the creatures with the neon-colored hair live for is to sing, dance and hug.
The one exception to this carefree philosophy is Branch (voice of Justin Timberlake). Unlike the others, he well remembers how the Trolls used to live before they were able to escape from their worst enemies, the Bergen. These perpetually sad, fat-faced giants had long been taught their only chance for a taste of happiness was to eat a Troll. Consequently, the dour citizens penned in the Trolls’ tree dwelling so they would have a ready supply of joyous morsels for special occasions. Although that was twenty years ago, and the Trolls have managed to remain safely hidden in a nearby forest all that time, Branch is convinced the Bergen will eventually find the Trolls again.
Perplexed by his pessimism, Poppy ignores Branch’s pleas to live quietly and plans a big party to celebrate the anniversary of their liberation. Sure enough, the ruckus attracts the attention of the Bergen Chef (voice of Christine Baranski), who has been jobless since the disappearance of the Trolls. When she captures a handful of the skittish critters and takes them back to the Bergen city, Poppy determines to mount a rescue mission. But if she hopes to be successful she will need the help of Branch’s practical survival skills.
Trolls includes much of the content issues you would expect. Slapstick goofiness and scatological humor are a major part of Troll culture. (Turns out they poop cupcakes and pass glitter gas.) Occasional bare buttocks and one of the youngsters who mutters terms of deity when surprised are part of the package as well. However, the fun and games take a more serious turn as Poppy and Branch face the perils of their journey and the increasing likelihood of the Bergen feasting on the little mop-tops. These scary scenes may be a bit too intense for young viewers who have not yet learned that children’s movies usually come with a happy ending.
Thankfully these Troll’s also have a few good marketing tricks and some genuinely valuable messages up their sleeves. Billed as a musical, the script is punctuated with many song and dance numbers featuring music from decades past, which will amuse the parents even more than the target audience. The cute factor of these characters has also been amped up from the original Troll dolls that inspired the film. Yet what I liked best was the worthwhile lesson about happiness being something we can chose to have for ourselves, rather than waiting for it to be serve to us on a silver platter.
The sour taste I initially had about this obvious marketing vehicle was also sweetened by examples of teamwork, the wisdom to mix a little reality into our hopes and dreams, and the reminder that singing, dancing and hugging really can be a good remedy for a bad attitude. So if you find your appetite for a feel-good story more satiated than you expected by the time the credits roll, don’t say I didn’t warn you.Directed by Mike Mitchell, Walt Dohrn. Starring Anna Kendrick, Zooey Deschanel, Justin Timberlake, Russell Brand, James Corden. Running time: 92 minutes. Theatrical release November 4, 2016. Updated February 7, 2017
Get details on profanity, sex and violence in Trolls here.
Trolls Parents Guide
This movie promotes the idea that it is up to each one of us to choose to be happy. Do you think this is true? Have you ever been able to feel happiness despite other difficulties?
Branch tries to knock some reality into Poppy’s naively optimistic perspective. Is his perpetual pessimism any more truthful as a reflection of life? What does Poppy mean when she says that she’d rather go through life believing it is mostly rainbows and cupcakes? How might our attitude effect the way we interrupt our experiences with others and with challenges?
In a side story, a mistreated scullery maid (voice of Zooey Deschanel) fears her lowly status will prevent her from ever capturing the attention of a prince (voice of Christopher Mintz-Plasse). What does she learn about outward appearances? What criteria should be used should be measure a person’s worth?
Troll dolls are back in stores and will undoubtedly be a big seller during the 2016 holiday season. Does this movie do anything more than advertise for these products? Is there an irony with a film that promotes happiness from within and then offers related advertising to convince children they need a Troll toy?