I’ve never been on to subscribe to this idea that kids movies only ever need to appeal to children to be a good movie. You hear the argument often – “the kids enjoyed it so that is fine”. But we’ve seen, over and over again, from every studio in Hollywood – Pixar, Disney, DreamWorks, Illumination, Blue Sky, even Warner Brothers – that it is more than possible to make a film that is both well-written and well-structured, and also able to keep the kids entertained. So, it stands to reason that unless you’re looking for an easy, cheap TV film to play at 3pm on the Cartoon Network, you should be held to the standard of the great animated films.
Trolls, the latest film from DreamWorks Animation, didn’t seem too interested in reaching those heights at all. Instead, we get a movie that offers little to any audience member that has significantly higher cognitive ability than the average glass of orange juice. And since I refuse to judge a movie as “Good because the tiny kids might enjoy it”, I have no hesitation in calling this film the worst I’ve seen in 2016.
The plot, or what passed for it in the production meeting at any rate, follows the fate of a community of Trolls. They are an insufferably happy lot who constantly sing and dance except for a minute every hour where they have to stop what they are doing to have a hug. 20 years ago, the Trolls had escaped from the clutches of the Bergens, a far more sensible lot who are constantly miserable and unable to experience true happiness unless they are eating a Troll. To celebrate the anniversary of their escape, Princess Poppy of the Trolls organizes a big, loud party, which attracts the attention of the Bergens. With much of her friends and subjects kidnapped by the Bergens, Poppy must team up with Branch, the only Troll to have developed sarcasm and cynicism, in order to rescue the Trolls.
The plot is mostly an excuse to jump between pop hits being sung by the stupid little Troll creatures. And, for the most part, the music isn’t awful (with the exception of the original song and centrepiece of the soundtrack, “Can’t Stop the Feeling!” by Justin Timberlake, which is a good example of everything wrong with pop music today – completely disposable). But the cover versions they do of songs like “The Sound of Silence”, “Hello” and “True Colors” still cannot hold a candle to the original versions by Simon & Garfunkel, Lionel Richie and Cyndi Lauper. And honestly, if you cannot hold a candle to Cyndi Lauper, it might be worth not putting the hopes of your entire Hollywood movie on your cover songs.
Pictured: A bar that this film failed to leap.
The film adds insult to injury by utilizing the vocal talents of a lot of very good performers and giving them exactly nothing to do really. They’re fine, and the cast sing all of their own songs, but it’s a waste of a talented bunch that includes Timberlake, Anna Kendrick, Zooey Deschanel, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Christine Baranski, Russell Brand, James Corden, Jeffrey Tambor, Kunal Nayyar, Quvenzhane Wallis and, perhaps the most strikingly wasted of all the talent, John Cleese.
At least, though, with such a collection of talent, and particularly with comedic giants like Cleese, Brand, Baranski and even Corden in the cast, you’d expect there to be a few good one-liners or fun jokes that can keep the adults entertained while the kids look at the pretty colours. Well, I did a tally throughout the movie of jokes that I could consider to be funny. And I got to one. That’s right, a singular joke. That is a truly pathetic for any movie, especially one that bills itself as an animated musical comedy. You’d get more laughs out of the average tax return.
For the most part, the characters are insufferable. There’s one Troll that literally defends himself by farting glitter onto things. I suppose this is supposed to account for the “comedy” but it just isn’t funny. There’s one who carries around a talking slug for no real defined reason. Outside of the two leads, none of them have anything approaching a defined personality and character, and they are almost all entirely inconsequential to the plot.
Also worth noting is that the plot randomly and very obviously tries to throw in the tale of Cinderella as a sub-plot, before more or less abandoning it in order to rush through to a big song and dance number. This basically sums up how much this movie cares about quality.
It’s an animated musical comedy with no comedy and average music. There is very little I could recommend to anyone about this movie. It is a kid’s movie, so very young kids might enjoy looking at the bright colours. That’s it. Is your kid old enough that you don’t have to sit through this pile of junk? Here’s a test – show your child this picture:
If your child thinks that this is just Elmo hanging out with some guy, then they may be young enough to enjoy this film. If they have the mental capacity to realize that this is a puppet being held by a puppeteer, then this movie is going to offer them absolutely nothing. So that’s the standard that has been set. DreamWorks Animation, a studio that gave us Shrek, Kung Fu Panda and How to Train Your Dragon, has delivered a movie that is no good for anyone that is too old for Sesame Street. What a dreadful shame. I am going to stop ranting now to save myself an aneurysm.
0.7/5 – A mess of a film. I’m honestly embarrassed that this film got my $10. Oh well, at least I’ll see Star Wars this week to make up for it.
I love Star Wars! Pew pew pew!
Another Bloody Critic would like to acknowledge the passing of musician Greg Lake in the past week, whose work for prog rock bands King Crimson and Emerson, Lake and Palmer helped develop a genre of music, and whose work has been used in a number of films – most notably Alfonso Cuaron’s Children of Men. RIP Greg Lake.