If you’ve been a fan of this blog for some time you know that I tend to be a tough sale when it comes to DreamWorks and in particular their comedies. For every Mr Peabody and Sherman that’s hilarious there are tons that fall flat. 2016’s Trolls is an interesting entry in their canon because while it didn’t work for me as a whole it did have a number of elements. I particularly loved the animation and music including the very catchy song by Justin Timberlake ‘Can’t Stop the Feeling’.
What I didn’t like in Trolls is the annoying characters and the oddly fascist message. Everyone in the land of the trolls must be the same. They must all like the same activities, music, colors etc. They are all even forced to hug at the same time every day. If they refuse to participate they are pronounced Scrooges and exiled. It seemed bizarre to me in this day and age to send a message about conforming to fit a crowd rather than increasing tolerance of all.
So now we have the sequel Trolls World Tour, and I’m happy to say they fix this problem…ALMOST! Indeed, most of the world building and lore of the first movie is abandoned for a new dynamic where they are surrounded by nations of music. Poppy’s land is of course pop music and then there is Rock, Country, Classical, Techno and Funk.
Here we have the same problem of everyone having to like the same kind of music and my hope was by the end of the journey Poppy and company would learn to enjoy different music from each land. Unfortunately they don’t go that far. There is tolerance on a macro national level but not on an individual learning to appreciate all kinds of music level. (What a good lesson that would have been for kids…)
The villain trying to take over all of trolldom is Queen Barb (Rachel Bloom) and she wants everything to be rock. Her evil plan is to gather the strings of all the lands for mass musical takeover. I think there is more of a rebellious streak in punk or heavy metal but it was fine (although when the strings are played/destroyed it’s not exactly a Thanos-level moment!).
I really enjoyed the animation in each musical world with the textures of the felt and hair. There are even sequences where they use 2D animation techniques to tell stories in a scrapbook, which of course I loved.
In addition, going to see all the different musical lands was fun and well done. I can make nitpicks like why is Kelly Clarkson voicing the country troll Delta Dawn? If there was ever a part screaming for Reba McEntire this was it. She even has red hair! The funk world was particularly interesting as they have a musical montage that explains how the other music especially pop has misappropriated the work of POC songwriters for decades.
They try to make room for other types of music beyond the 6 lands with bounty hunters of regaeton, kpop and yodeling but there are still obvious omissions like blues, salsa, broadway etc. Nevertheless, kids will have a lot of fun with the music and will be no doubt dancing along to the songs watching at home. Unfortunately It seems like most of the cover songs were outdated. For example, in the pop covers they have songs like ‘Can’t Touch This’ from MC Hammer and ‘Wannabe’ by the Spice Girls. Surely they could have gotten something more recent?
Sadly the new songs aren’t much better. In fact, they are entirely forgettable, which is disappointing. I don’t know if they were trying too hard to match the appeal of the first film but the new songs pale in comparison.
All in all, Trolls World Tour is harmless for kids. It has some beautiful animation and sweet moments but it could have been much better. I so wish they had shown Poppy and Branch embracing all different kinds of music in the end and everyone being richer as a result. As it is, the world of Trolls ends pretty close to where it began, which is not what you want in a quest movie. The message is still you have to think like everyone else or there is a problem, and I don’t like that!
4.5 out of 10