I will be the first to admit, as a twenty-four-year-old man who lives with his wife and pays bills and all that jazz, I am not necessarily the target-demographic for the Trolls series and not really who Trolls World Tour is meant for. But, … that isn’t enough to keep myself from having an opinion on the film. Instead, this is more of a disclaimer that my opinion on the film might not mesh with what ones’ daughter or son might think of the film.
I believe that animation can transcend what is expected of it. I think that Dreamworks as a company has even shown us that with features like How to Train Your Dragon offering a level of cinematic depth and beauty that goes beyond a superficial level. I am not of the belief that an animated film is inherently for children nor am I even of the belief that a film like Dreamworks’ The Boss Baby is exclusively for children. A story that is well told is a story that is well told, and regardless of whether you fall in the exact parameters of that films’ demographic, I think that you can appreciate or see the flaws in something regardless of age-group.
Trolls World Tour is a computer-animated, jukebox musical (I had never heard the name of this genre before this moment) film produced by DreamWorks Animation. A sequel to the 2016 film Trolls, the film was directed by Walt Dohrn and co-direction by David P. Smith. The script was written by Jonathan Aibel, Glenn Berger, Elizabeth Tippet, Maya Forbes and Wallace Wolodarsky, from a story by Aibel and Berger. I often do my best to make for certain to credit individuals who I think play a novel part in any film’s production, but rarely is it so readily apparent that, frankly put, it took a lot of hands to create something very simple and straightforward.
The film stars Anna Kendrick, Justin Timberlake, James Corden, Kunal Nayyar, and many others from the original film, and makes additional casting of Rachel Bloom and Ozzy Osbourne (yes, really), to name a few of them.
The film is notable this year because it was released both on home-video and in-theaters simultaneously (mind you, as some theater chain owners have said … it’s mostly just on home-video) as a result of the ongoing Corona virus. The fact that a one-hundred million-dollar film would forego its theatrical release instead of postponing the film is a considerable risk on the company’s part, but I am curious to see if the gamble will pay off.
As mentioned, Trolls World Tour is a jukebox musical, what that means is, basically, is covers a lot of mainstream music and makes the minimal amount of changes to it in-order to frame and structure its narrative. The concept is novel, and I can imagine it has a lot of synergistic appeal. Not only does Trolls World Tour sell itself as a film, but it sells the Trolls toy-line and it creates a colorful billboard for an eventual soundtrack, meanwhile musicians featured and covered receive promotion as well. It’s a very smart idea from a business mindset.
The story is superficial and saccharine at its worst, but fun and light-heart at its best. Queen Poppy discovers that other Trolls exist, ones that sing and dance to different types of music, meanwhile, a Rock Troll named Queen Barb is trying to collect these guitar strings that will more-or-less let her control all music. It’s all about Poppy trying to stop her, all while encountering a range of different genres, discovering the beauty of different cultures and accepting the unique identities that come with their distinct sound.
The narrative of Trolls World Tour is unoffensive and, even, on some instances, I find myself thinking it has more on its mind than what it lets on, but it never lets anything on its mind develop and be digestible. The metaphors feel mixed and inconsistent, and the characters and the narrative tone oftentimes can feel artificial and forced. I find myself interested in how the development of this film was and wonder if the songs were chosen with the story in mind or if the story was chosen with the songs in mind. I find myself thinking that it was the latter of the two with how tonally disheveled it felt as a film.
One benefit the film has is that it allows itself to pursue other different genres of music, a factor which, in my opinion, adds a considerable amount to the entertainment-value of the film. Sometimes it works, but, at the same time, it never accomplishes what I would hope for. Every genre portrayed, while it knows the words and the general sound, it still feels glossy and pop-like in this film. They have Ozzy Osbourne in the voice cast for an added street cred, but their rendition of Crazy Train doesn’t at all have the shredding rock sound of Crazy Train. It is all well and good if it is the sound you enjoy and it is certainly on-brand with the previous film, but I think it would have been cool and more authentic had they allowed the film to show more of what’s unique about certain genres than what they did.
In the end, I am not left with a lot of criticism or praise for this film, and that’s really the hardest reviews to write for Mashers Club. I believe it is an improvement over the first Trolls film, but it still feels sticky and sugary, and like it was made to sell little plastic toy microphones that play Anna Kendrick when you bop them against the palm of your hand. If you change your perspective and expect a film of production heavy performances covering a bunch of popular songs, with a safe and familiar narrative, and you still want to see the film, you won’t be disappointed.