Film review: Trolls – Justin Timberlake and Anna Kendrick in DreamWorks’ delightful musical
An all-star cast, catchy pop songs to sing along to and plenty of DreamWorks humour in this weird and wonderful animation
DreamWorks has arguably produced its strangest animation yet with Trolls, a bright-and-breezy sing-a-long fairy-tale cartoon musical directed by Walt Dohrn and Mike Mitchell. The surreal fantasia rather matches the style of these titular creatures – based on those DayGlo dolls created in 1959 by Danish toymaker Thomas Dam. Even if you’ve never owned one, you will have seen them – usually on someone’s pencil – with their big, bulging eyes and multicoloured bouffant hairstyles that look as if they’ve used too much gel.
When the tale opens we learn that these perpetually-beaming beings are victims of the much bigger Bergens, a race of ogres who like nothing better than to feast on the trolls – on a day they call ‘Trollstice’ – under the belief that it will bring them happiness. But when their King (voiced by Jeffrey Tambor) leads them to escape into the woods, the trolls are safe – well, for 20 years at least, until a giant party alerts the Bergens to their whereabouts.
With a bunch of trolls kidnapped, the King’s daughter Poppy (Anna Kendrick) resolves to head to Bergen Town to rescue them, along with Branch (Justin Timberlake), the only troll who doesn’t like to sing or hug. And so Trolls becomes an odd-couple story, albeit seasoned with plenty of recognisable pop tunes (from the upbeat dance number Move Your Feet to Lionel Ritchie’s ballad Hello) sung by a cast that includes Gwen Stefani and electro-duo Icona Pop.
The strength, apart from these zippy songs, is its humour. Co-director Dohrn is particularly good as Cloud Guy – a laid-back white puffy cloud who tries to get the grumpy Branch to high-five. He’s almost incidental to the plot, but Trolls isn’t afraid to take random detours. More central – but just as funny – is the nerd romance between Prince Gristle Jnr (Christopher Mintz-Plasse), the Bergen ruler, and Bridget (Zooey Deschanel), the scullery maid who helps Poppy and Branch in their quest. It’s delightfully weird.
Trolls opens on November 3
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