It’s been a little more than a year since Trolls defied expectations by earning almost $350 million at the global box office and a 74 percent approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Naturally, Dreamworks has decided to try and replicate the film’s unexpected success on the small screen with the new Netflix show Trolls: The Beat Goes On. While it’s unlikely to make much of an impression on adults, Trolls is a fun and light-hearted show that young kids will likely lap up.
The Beat Goes On revolves around the odd couple friendship between the relentlessly positive Queen Poppy and the practical and pessimistic Branch who live in the aptly named Troll Village. Unlike most kid’s entertainment, the show does not pretend like constant optimism is the answer to all of life’s problems. While Poppy’s ability to see the best in every situation is undoubtedly one of her greatest strengths, it also can be the source of her problems, as her naive nature can keep her from thinking things all the way through. Luckily, she and Branch’s yin-yang dynamic balances each other out nicely. Poppy always hopes for the best, while Branch is always prepared for the worst.
In terms of structure, Trolls follows the same winning formula that has been entertaining children for decades. Each episode features two mini adventures where Branch or Poppy get themselves into some sort of mess and the only way to fix everything is to learn to believe in themselves or some other generic inspirational lesson. Whether they are trying to throw an epic birthday bash or making peace with their longtime enemies, the Bergrens, there’s never any doubt that the big-haired heroes will have solved whatever obstacle is in the way of their harmonious existence before the credits roll.
Despite no longer having the A-list talent that was featured in the Trolls movie, the voice cast turns out to be one of the show’s greatest strengths. Each of the actors brings tremendous energy to their performance to the point that even the characters who mostly function as plot devices are at least mildly entertaining. Amanda Leighton and Skylar Astin are especially great as Poppy and Branch, as they nail the characters’ slightly contentious but ultimately loving friendship. Stand-up comedian Ron Funches is unsurprisingly hilarious as Cooper, the endearingly dim-witted troll who, for some reason, looks like a giraffe.
The biggest weakness of the new show is that it tries too hard to appeal to adults by awkwardly stuffing the script with random pop culture references and unnecessary meta-humor. Shows like SpongeBob and The Animaniacs are legendary for their rare ability to make jokes that appeal to both kids and parents but in the Trolls’ bright and sunny universe, that type of humor often feels out of place. The occasional flash of self-awareness from one of the trolls can be funny but when every character is constantly noting how awkward or random things are, the joke quickly falls flat.
Chances are slim that Trolls: The Beat Goes On will appeal to you or your spouse but that’s only because the Netflix series wasn’t made for you or your spouse. It was made for your kid and in that regard, the show is a success, as kids will love watching these characters get themselves in and out of all sorts of situations in less than 30 minutes. It may not have the absurdist wit of Looney Tunes or the emotional intelligence of Pixar but it will probably keep your kid distracted long enough for you to get some stuff done. And at the end of the day, isn’t that all a parent can really ask for?