“Trolls” has a message for its audience: Be happy. Or else!
Coerced jollity is the order of the day in the kingdom of trolldom in this animated kids movie from DreamWorks.
And I do mean order.
Hugs on the hour are commanded by special watches worn by trollish folk, signaling that it’s time to reach out and squeeze someone. Smiles are required. And there will be singing. Lots and lots of singing, of tunes extolling relentless positivity. Sample lyric: “Hey! I’m not giving up today. I will get back up again.”
Springing unbidden to mind as “Trolls” unspools are thoughts of Disneyland’s “It’s a Small World” ride. Imagine being trapped in that ride for 93 unending minutes. That’s what it’s like sitting through “Trolls.”
There, there. It’ll be all right. Please stop screaming.
Based on those homely little toys with the stand-up hair, the trolls of the title are ugly/cute, rendered in bright candy colors with elvish ears and stubby little fingers and toes.
Dedicated to raining on their parade of happiness are a race of villainous creatures called the Bergen who are ugly/uh-glee. All grayish-purple with mouths full of snaggly teeth. Teeth they use to chomp on twittering trolls. By ingesting the chirpy little dears Bergenkind seeks to internalize the little guys’ sunny joyfulness.
And you know, that is a pretty dark premise for a kids movie. Sort of a Hansel and Gretel vibe going on there.
With the Bergen walking the land hunting for troll hors d’oeuvres, it’s up to Poppy (voiced by Anna Kendrick), the cheeriest troll of all, and Branch (Justin Timberlake), the only grouch in all of trolldom, to join forces and save the day. And along the way, maybe Poppy can plant a smile on old Branch’s sour puss as opposites inevitably attract.
The picture cribs elements from “Cyrano de Bergerac” and “Cinderella” (a left-behind roller skate takes the place of the glass slipper) and delivers what has to be the loudest version of Simon and Garfunkel’s “Sounds of Silence” the world has ever heard.
Kids up to maybe 5 or 6 might like it. As for mom and dad … kindly keep your screams to yourselves.
☆☆ out of 5
Cast: Featuring the voices of Anna Kendrick, Justin Timberlake, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Christine Baranski.
Directors: Mike Mitchell and Walt Dohrn.
Running time: 1:33.
Rated: PG, for some mild rude humor.