2016, PG, 92 min. Directed by Walt Dohrn, Mike Mitchell. Voices by Anna Kendrick, Justin Timberlake, Zooey Deschanel, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Christine Baranski, Russell Brand, Gwen Stefani, John Cleese, Jeffrey Tambor.
REVIEWED By Marc Savlov, Fri., Nov. 4, 2016
There’s nary a hint of the original Troll dolls' disconcerting unearthliness in this utterly tame although vibrantly animated feature from DreamWorks Animation. Target-demographically precise gags, songs, and the often downright psychedelic visuals will mesmerize the pre-teen set, but parents and aging collectors of one of the biggest fads to sweep Sixties and Seventies pop culture should feel free to grab 90 minutes of free nap time while the wee ones get an eyeful.
Troll dolls were initially a Danish creation – like Lego bricks and Reptilicus – but their main draw has always been the triple threat of those huge unblinking eyes, the pop art explosion of their fright-wig tufted hair, and that alien, sexless nakedness. Cute in a vaguely disquieting way, Sixties kids also reveled in their flammability. Up against Hasbro’s equally popular new G.I. Joe (“America’s Movable Fighting Man”) in after-school, backyard Bic lighter battles, Trolls never stood a chance. Still, Dude-like, they have abided.
DreamWorks’ Trolls is no Shrek, though. The boilerplate plot involves joyfully miserable, Troll-devouring creatures called Bergens and a scheme by ultra-happy Troll Princess Poppy (Kendrick) and her defiantly not-happy, survivalist pal Branch (Timberlake) to rescue some captured friends over in Bergen Town. Along the way there are some, eh, not bad song parodies, visually arresting Day-Glo set pieces, and several CGI variations on earlier, earthier animation styles (felt, puppetry, pen and ink). It’s an interesting mashup for die-hard animaniacs, but Trolls the movie never capitalizes on the original dolls’ fabulous furry freakiness, much less their creep-out factor. It’s all generally unambitious fluff of the purest stripe, a snooze for those well past their pre-teen, gaga Troll doll fever, but little kids will likely love it and pepper mom and dad immediately after for more Trolls® merchandise. Which arguably is the whole point of this movie.