Timberlake And Kendrick Turn “Trolls” Into An Endearing Kids Flick

By Scott Kurland

Film: Trolls
Starring: Anna Kendrick, Justin Timberlake, Zooey Deschanel, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Christine Baranski, Russell Brand, Gwen Stefani, James Corden, Ron Funches, Jeffrey Tambor, and John Cleese
Rated: PG
Directors: Walt Dohrn & Mike Mitchell

Since the 80’s, film studios have been trying to make films and franchises out of everything under the sun. Content is of little consequence. They’ll make movies out of books, video games... hell, they will even remake movies they already made. The one thing I never could understand is how they could make a film out of a toy franchise. “Transformers”, “He-Man”, and “My Little Pony” all had cartoons which provided a "jumping-off point" in terms of story. However, you couldn’t make a tangible film off of ‘Barbie’ or ‘Troll’ dolls. Or could you? This week’s film is Dreamworks’ “Trolls,” based Thomas Dam’s Good Luck Trolls. Let’s see if it’s any good shall we?

“Trolls” takes place in a world where Trolls are the happiest creatures on the planet; each one busting into song at a moments notice. They share this world with the Bergens; creatures with a permanent grimace plastered on their face. Trolls are the Bergens food of choice as they believe eating a Troll offers a fleeting sense of true happiness. Tired of being eaten, the Trolls manage to escape the Bergen's grumpy grasp and flee to the safety of the woods where they have remained for 20 years. When a sadistic Bergen Chef (Christine Baranski) tracks the Trolls down, it looks like they’re back on the menu again. It’s up to the overly cheery Troll Princess, Poppy (Anna Kendrick) and the overly cynical Branch (Justin Timberlake) to find the captured Trolls and get them off the menu forever. Will they find their friends? Or will Trolls forever be a Bergen’s favorite midnight snack?

I was shocked by “Trolls” because the trailers make this film look like an over-hyped “Happy Feet” (I’m not a “Happy Feet” fan. Sorry readers). They have similar musical themes as they take popular music and make it exist in this fairy-tale world. Thankfully, that’s where the similarities end. Beneath the never-ending bonaroo of glitter and hugs, “Trolls” has a surprising amount of heart. The message of "finding your own happiness" radiates off the screen. It's a fantastic message for children to learn at an early age because it’s true. You create your own happiness and no on can, or should, stand in the way of that.

I was very impressed by all the dialogue and the themes of this film. This comes as no surprise given that Dreamworks veterans Jonathan Aibel and Glen Berger wrote the script. These are the guys who wrote all three “Kung Fu Panda” films which is, quite possibly, Dreamworks’ greatest franchise. It’s no wonder the writing and jokes are so clever and well developed. The film is directed by Mike Mitchell who made “Shrek Forever After,”one of the strongest “Shrek” films in the series. Mitchell also had help from legendary story artist Walt Dohrn as his Co-Director. When it came to music, this movie nailed the formula, thanks to Justin Timberlake and his collaboration with Gwen Stefani. All these factors and more are what make “Trolls” a great children’s movie. Honestly, its just nice to have an optimistic movie these days. The movie does have its flaws and some of the forest creatures are quite bizarre but I can look past these things because the music is good and the script is funny

I love animation and there’s a fantastic documentary about voice actors called, “I Know That Voice” which shows how difficult voice acting is as a profession. “Trolls” has a lot of tremendous voice work from Timberlake, Deschanel, and of course, Anna Kendrick (who is quite possibly the world’s ultimate manic pixie dream girl.) What “Trolls” brings back is great supporting voice work from side characters like comedian Ron Funches, Jeffrey Tambor and, I can’t believe I’m saying this, music group Icona Pop. Everyone was clearly having fun working in the studio on this, but no one has more fun than Christine Baranski as the films’ antagonistic Chef. Baranski is so over the top that she boarders on being this zany, foppish caricature of a Shakespearean sociopath. This is one of Dreamworks’ strongest villains in quite some time. If this film doesn't earn Baranski an Annie nomination it’ll be a shame.

I think I liked “Trolls” so much, because I went in with such low expectations. I’ve been weary of Dreamworks since I saw “Home." That film left a bad taste in my mouth big time. I know I gave “Kung Fu Panda 3” a great review, but that’s series was already established. “Trolls” is an original story with nothing to jump off of and it sticks the landing. A lot of this has to do with how great the musical numbers are animated and arranged. I mean, if you don’t have at least one tear in your eye after they sing “True Colors” by Cyndi Lauper, I’m sorry to inform you of this, but you’re emotionally dead on the inside. The more I think about it, “Trolls” had to be a strong film because it’s going up against “Marvel’s Dr. Strange” this weekend. Dreamworks had to up their game and they crafted a fun kids movie that will make parents and children of all ages happy. Is this Oscar worthy? Well, “Can’t Stop This Feeling” will definitely be nominated for best song, but I’d be very surprised if “Trolls” gets nominated for best animated film.

“Trolls” is a great family film. It has a wonderful message for children and one of the funniest sight gags I’ve seen since “The Three Amigos" (it involves a funeral, and that’s all I’ll say). This film might not be for everyone, but if you like animation or have kids you might want to see “Trolls”. You could either make this a full price screening or a matinee, but I recommend seeing it on the big screen because Dreamworks really nails the 3D in their animated films. I warn you, you will be humming all the songs for days, they’re that catchy. If you aren’t seeing “Dr. Strange” this weekend, check out “Trolls”.

scott kurlandComment