It’s all bright colours, high energy, instantly forgettable fun in DreamWorks Animation’s latest outing. Complimented with a top charting headline song, Trolls is a completed checklist of a pre-planned marketing and merchandising initiatives – and it’s all done with style. It’s just missing that certain something that has alluded all but one* of DwA’s efforts – resonance.
Look, don’t get me wrong, Trolls is a very amiable affair. It’s completely sweet-natured, full of gags and pop culture nods whilst boasting one of the brightest colour palettes in animation this year. I mean, how could you go wrong when you’ve got such talent as Justin Timberlake, Anna Kendrick, Russell Brand, Gwen Stefani, James Corden, John Cleese and Zooey Deschanel at your disposal?
Add to that a creative team including Mike Mitchell (Shrek Forever After), Walt Dohrn (Shrek 2), Jonathan Aibel (Kung Fu Panda 3) and Glenn Berger (Kung Fu Panda 3) and you’re in pretty good hands, right? Well, for the most part, yes.
Then you insert the very famous range of toys as the basis of your film and Hey presto! Trolls is here! The thing is, this team of creatives are franchise machines disciplined in building sequelized properties (Kung Fu Panda, Shrek, Spongebob Squarepants). They know the structure of what-goes-where in the narrative and with this new outing there’s not one foot out of place…
In the unfathomable optimism of the world where the Trolls exist, their exuberance and happiness reigns supreme and is only matched by the multitudes of bright hair colours they have. Their lives are full of pep and sass, scored by a wave modern disco music and good will towards one another. They share this world with another race called the Bergens. They are bigger, uglier and generally unpleasant, so when a clan of them invades the Troll village for their annual Trollstice (a feast of Trolls), it’s up to the super happy Poppy (Anna Kendrick), the not-so-happy Branch (Justin Timberlake), Biggie (James Corden), Creek (Russell Brand) and some other Trolls to rescue their captured friends and save the day.
Squarely targeted at the tweens and younger, Trolls follows a tried and true narrative path that will leave those of us wanting something with a bit more drama and heart wanting. It seems to be the one key that DreamWorks Animation seems to miss in many of their films – resonance. The only one that really struck a chord to move into that more timeless level was the stunning How To Train Your Dragon, it’s a title that you just don’t dispose of. Trolls doesn’t reach that level, it’s not trying to, it’s there to distract the kids for 90 minutes, which it does in spades.
The songs are fun and up tempo, the sense of peril is kept to a minimum and the whole thing has a polished sheen to it that will keep the youngens captivated for the duration. Though it certainly feels like it was created for the express purpose of merchandising and more sequels (which, based on the global figures of $292m and counting, it’s got in the bag), Trolls does deliver on its promise. I just feel like this could’ve been something more… Then again, given this is one of DreamWorks Animation better performing films, there’ll be sequels a’coming that might just push the boundaries a little bit.
Trolls is an amiable distraction for the kids. It’s an undemanding watch, bright and colourful which will keep the target market transfixed and the goodwill flowing.
TROLLS is on NATIONAL RELEASE through 20TH CENTURY FOX
*How To Train Your Dragon