Hollywood loves to mine old episodes of I Love The 90s for ideas. With DreamWorks’ new flick, Trolls, they prove no pre-Internet fad is safe. But, to ensure there’s more to it than just tiny creatures with giant hair, Justin Timberlake, Anna Kendrick, Zooey Deschanel, Gwen Stefani, and James Corden lend their voices. Is that enough to keep the whole family in their seats for 90 minutes? (Plus 30 minutes of previews?)
There is a plot, albeit a thin one. Princess Poppy (Kendrick) likes to party. She and the rest of her troll friends have long forgotten about the days when they had to fear the evil Bergens, a group of sad monsters who get their jollies eating Trolls. When one of Poppy’s fiestas gets a little too loud and glitter-tastic, the Bergens discover the Trolls’ new community and kidnap a group of Poppy’s friends. Poppy is determined to save her posse, but needs help from Branch (Timberlake) and Bridget (Deschanel), a Bergen who’s been bullied (or … trolled) by her tribe. Is all that glitters a decent kids’ movie? Here’s what the critics are saying to help you decide.
For Kids: Critics agree that kids will love the psychedelic, singing-and-dancing Trolls. “DreamWorks has arguably produced its strangest animation yet with Trolls, a bright-and-breezy sing-a-long fairy-tale cartoon musical,” writes James Mottram for the South China Morning Post. And as far as blatant Hollywood cash grabs go, it’s not as bad as you’d think. “Trolls winds up transforming from a prospective toy commercial to a spiritual lesson about being content with what you already have,” writes Gwen Ihnat of AV Club. Not that it’s too deep. Cath Clarke at Time Out says it’s “Not a keeper like Frozen, but a loveable and giddy guilty pleasure.” If you’re looking for big life lessons and educational value in Trolls, just let it go.
For You: You’re not going in expecting The Girl On The Train, but some critics are really harshing the movie’s candy-coated buzz. Tirdad Derakhshani at the Philadelphia Inquirer calls it “clichéd and predictable” and writes that “Overall, the film has no real magic.“ But Film Journal International critic Edward Douglas says that while the movie “has the flimsiest of plots and silliest of premises, it still finds a way to pay off.” That seems to be the way that most of the critics (or at least ones who aren’t cynical) are seeing it. The consensus is, “Yeah, it’s kind of ridiculous. But having fun is fun.”
Common Sense’s Take: Common Sense Media is the leading nonprofit source for helping parents make movie and TV choices for their kids. They say your kid will love this brightly colored musical journey (complete with glitter-fart jokes), and that the feel-good messages (everyone deserves to find what makes them happy; you shouldn’t try to change who you are for anyone else) are easy for kids to grasp. The Bergens might freak out younger kids, and there are a few scary action moments along the way, but overall Trolls keeps things as light and fluffy as their neon hair.
Bottom Line: Just like Despicable Me, parents will probably be more into the Trolls soundtrack than the storyline. Your kid will gaze in awe at all the shiny, happy people. And next year’s Halloween costume is sorted with just some body paint and hair dye.
Running Time: 92 minutes