Akin to The Smurfs smothered in Fun Dip, the world of Trolls is an easy sell for kids of being a high dose of manic bedazzlement. Armed with pop music, bright colors, and characters literally made out of glitter, the 2016 adaptation of the iconic toy came about as standard as your kid-oriented animated movies come, complete with a ho-hum message of setting aside differences and being comfortable with yourself outside of cultural norms. Thankfully, the sequel, Trolls World Tour, finds a bit more to explore within its energetic world while dabbling in more than a double-dip of its familiar candy coating.
Lord of the Strings
The film wastes little time jumping into a story about how there is more than one type of troll in this fantasy world. What a relief it is to hear that such a place is not merely bound by the polarizing effect of pop music. It turns out there are trolls of numerous genres of music, even subgenres of K-pop and smooth jazz. All were once one with a stringed harp but then split when harmony could not be reached and the strings of each genre went to their own lands.
This new lore thrown into the mix makes quite the conflict for Queen Poppy (Anna Kendrick), still trying to get used to taking charge of her pop-fused troll kingdom. Her non-stop singing and all-loving nature clashes with the slightly cynical and skeptical view of her best friend Branch (Justin Timberlake), a bit frustrated in trying to figure out if their relationship will proceed from like to like-like. When they learn of the other lands of music, Poppy is open and excited for bringing everyone together while Branch is hesitant of trusting others.
The Rock Rebellion
The main problem is that the one tribe desiring to unite the strings is that of the Rock Trolls, led by the angsty and rebellious Queen Barb (Rachel Bloom). Her leather-bound legion of rockers roams the fantasy realm, hoping to dominate all the music kingdoms with their own brand of brash rebelliousness. I guess you gotta rebel against something. Barb isn’t too compelling a character considering her distaste of various competing music and her inability to make friends who respect her. She’s an easy enough baddie to best with someone as friendly and open as Poppy trying to kill her with kindness.
What’s more interesting about Barb is what she represents as a pompous view of how the world should remain divided. She finds other music deplorable and not fitting her nature. It’s not just that she hates the likes of other music but demand they not exist, choosing to use her power for one genre to be dominant. Her arguments are made rock opera style as she charges into each realm, mocks their music, and blows them away with a bombastic barrage of loud guitar and drums. She’s wrong, sure, but offers a refreshing counter to the cavity-inducing sugar of the Pop Trolls, making for a great rivalry.
A World Worth Touring
The world of Trolls feels far more intriguing with so many new discoveries. The land of Techno Trolls is one of the underwater mermaids, a rather bold choice as I wouldn’t expect electronics and water to mix. Some realms are fairly predictable, as with the Country Trolls somberly occupying a dusty town and the Classical Trolls kingdom being a slathering of heavenly gold. But then there are more creative conceptions as with the Funk Trolls residing within a trippy starship of wild design. Rock Trolls, of course, occupy a world of skulls and lava. Should we expect anything less from Trolls slathered in black makeup, mohawks, and fishnets stalkings?
I especially dug how the film weaves in more niche genres of music as bounty hunters vying for their spot in the new music order. Yodel Trolls and K-Pop Trolls traverse the lands and get into dance-offs makes for a surprisingly unique fantasy. One aspect most odd of these subgenres is that of the Smooth Jazz Troll, Chaz, whose music seems to produce trippy effects and, according to one troll, is enough to put one off jazz altogether. Universal, however, is giving off mixed messages by releasing a 10-hour promotional video of the film’s smooth jazz soundtrack meant to lull Poppy and her companions into a feel-good coma.
The Trouble With Trolls
To keep the adventure progressing, Trolls World Tour throws a handful of twists into the mix to keep things interesting. Aspects of a hidden history and spies within the Troll ranks provide some expected but welcoming developments. They don’t exactly throw a curveball towards the parents, but I honestly wasn’t expecting that much surprise from a film so blatant in its message of unity. A good message, for sure, but one that comes about as stock as a rock opera can communicate such togetherness with an all-encompassing musical climax guaranteed.
Even the casting appears fairly predictable. Before the leader of the Funk Trolls even opened his mouth, I off-handedly guessed that the filmmakers hired George Clinton for the role. Sure enough, there was that gruff voice. The leader of the Country Trolls I quickly guessed was that of Kelly Clarkson from the character’s first appearance and, sure enough, there she was bursting onto the scene with somber country melody. Not an ounce of surprise in who Ozzy Osbourne is voicing, but at least a few smiles to be had with Sam Rockwell in the role of a Southern-drawl Troll.
Thankfully the film does play itself a bit fast and loose with its gags that fly over the heads of the wee ones. An aged rocker drinks a juice box labeled fiber while a much younger rocker makes reference to tattoos not being on the face in case they want office jobs. It’s from these bits, and indeed most of the assembly, that one starts to question the illogical aspects of the Troll culture. Are there office jobs? What makes classical music classic in this world? And how are the Troll-eating Bergens fitting into all this? These are questions that will not be answered and I’m semi-grateful they are never given much time in a film that clearly needed to shed the vanilla skin of its lesser first outing.
Conclusion: Trolls World Tour
Trolls World Tour finds a few of the right notes to pluck from its candy-coated guitar that it’s less likely to induce a cavity or headache than most manic animated features. It fulfills many of the expected trademarks of the colorful kaleidoscope of kid’s animated movies, but still comes branded with a solid message and abundant creativity. The playfulness present was at least enough to make me smile for a film where a troll creature poops out a birthday cake with lit candles.
Did you check out Trolls World Tour at home? Was it good for the kids? Did it bore the adults? Let us know in the comments.
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