Trolls ***

Cute movie with fun songs and the right message for kids.

Is it worth $15 (3D)? No
Is it worth $10? Yes

“Trolls” is a cute, harmless and effervescent confection of a movie. It’s aimed squarely at little kids (ten and below), and peppered with peppy pop tunes and bright colors in flashy animation for 92 minutes. Importantly, it also references older songs parents and grandparents would know, notably Simon & Garfunkel’s “The Sound of Silence,” so there truly is something for everyone here.

Trolls are the happiest bunch of diminutive creatures on the planet. Their existence consists of singing, dancing and hugging. Led by Princess Poppy (Anna Kendrick), their lives are a hedonistic party of life’s pleasures. The only sullen troll is Branch (Justin Timberlake), who had a terrible thing happen when he was younger and is still feeling the effects. How none of the other trolls have ever had something bad happen to them is never explained.

Trolls do live in constant fear, however. The bigger and dangerous Bergens are a miserable bunch save for one day a year, “Trollstice,” in which they dine on tasty trolls. At the start of the film “Trollstice” goes awry as King Peppy (Jeffrey Tambor) leads an escape from the Bergens, which embarrasses Chef (Christine Baranski), the Bergen responsible for providing the trolls.

Twenty years pass and the trolls have successfully remained hidden, but they’re getting cocky about it; when Branch warns that loud singing and dancing will attract unwanted attention, you know he’s right. And of course it does, which leads to kidnappings, rescues, expected love, unexpected love, inspired mash-ups of pop hits, and enough laughs to keep us amused throughout.

Directors Walt Dohrn and Mike Mitchell’s movie is aimed directly at kids, so it feels tedious at times. You can see the formulaic plot wheels churning in Jonathan Aibel and Glenn Berger’s script. There are some surprises, though, including a Bergen named Bridget (Zooey Deschanel) getting a makeover and a troll other than Branch who is quite selfish.

The visuals from Dreamworks Animation are serviceable but unimpressive. The studio’s products (“Shrek,” “How To Train Your Dragon”) have looked better in the past; in “Trolls” the color palettes are so vibrant that the lack of variety and vivid detail create a washed-out effect. In other words, much it looks blandly similar, and precious little of it “pops” in 3D the way it should. No need to pay the 3D upcharge on this one. 

The voice cast is impressive, and also features Russell Brand, Gwen Stefani, James Corden, Christopher Mintz-Plasse and John Cleese. And with talent such as Kendrick, Timberlake, Stefani and Corden leading the singing, it’s a given that the songs – which include “True Colors,” “Hello,” “Move Your Feet,” “Get Back Up Again” and more – would be handled wonderfully.

Indeed, the music and message of finding your own happiness are the heart of “Trolls,” and are what win you over. Flaws aside, you will leave the theater smiling and feeling like you just had a good time, and darn it, that’s the point.

Did you know?
Timberlake is the executive producer of the film’s music; his song “Can’t Stop The Feeling” was created for the soundtrack, and was first released in May 2016.

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