DreamWorks TROLLS Review – A Real Surprise

DreamWorks’ latest animated feature film TROLLS is going to surprise a lot of people.  Taking an idea that revolves around a classic line of toys which grew to popularity in the early sixties, the filmmakers have given audiences a fun, lighthearted, energetic and charming little movie.  It may not reach the same quality level of a film like HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON, but it does manage to delightfully entertain for a significant amount of its run-time.  Unfortunately, there is a downside to it all as well, as the creative team does make one big miscalculation.  The musical numbers feel as if they belong in another film and have a tendency to bring the fun to a screeching halt.  It doesn’t ruin the film, but it does do some damage to the good time audiences will be having with everything else that the movie has to offer.  Continue reading for our full TROLLS review.

TRL_sq800_s26_f201_4k_final_RGB_FIN – Troll princess Poppy (Left; voiced by Anna Kendrick) is introduced to overly cautious paranoid survivalist Branch's (Right; voiced by Justin Timberlake) fear bunker in DreamWorks Animation's TROLLS. Photo Credit: DreamWorks Animation.

Troll princess Poppy (Left; voiced by Anna Kendrick) is introduced to overly cautious paranoid survivalist Branch’s (Right; voiced by Justin Timberlake) fear bunker in DreamWorks Animation’s TROLLS. Photo Credit: DreamWorks Animation.

The story being told is rather simple.  The villains of the film are the Bergens, a group of mean and nasty monsters that are convinced that the only way to truly be happy is to eat the carefree and overly joyous Trolls.  The Bergens live such miserable lives that they’ve actually created a holiday called Trollstice, where annually they feast on the lovable Trolls in order to have at least one day of happiness every year.  The story begins when the Trolls’ successfully escape from the Bergens clutches and find a safe haven where they can live out their days in peace.  After the escape, the head chef of the Bergens is deemed responsible and therefore banished from the city, causing her to set out on a mission, vowing to one day bring the cute little happy critters back to where they belong – to the monsters’ dinner table.  The story then moves ahead many years and because of circumstance created by the King Troll’s daughter Poppy, the chef is able to find the Trolls village and capture several of them to bring back to the Bergen Kingdom.  This is where the adventure takes off as Poppy, feeling guilty for what has happened, teams up with a sourpuss named Branch and heads out on a rescue mission to save the captured Trolls.

TRL_sq700_s2_pub_139_f139_4K_RGB_FIN – From left: Trolls King Peppy (voiced by Jeffrey Tambor), Cooper (voiced by Ron Funches) and Poppy (voiced by Anna Kendrick) are confronted by the fearsome Bergen Chef (voiced by Christine Baranski) in DreamWorks Animation's TROLLS. Photo Credit: DreamWorks Animation.

From left: Trolls King Peppy (voiced by Jeffrey Tambor), Cooper (voiced by Ron Funches) and Poppy (voiced by Anna Kendrick) are confronted by the fearsome Bergen Chef (voiced by Christine Baranski) in DreamWorks Animation’s TROLLS. Photo Credit: DreamWorks Animation.

 

There’s really nothing special about the film’s plot.  It’s the typical rescue mission story-line that we’ve seen many times before in both TV and Film.  It’s really all about the characters and execution.  Directors Walt Dohrn and Mike Mitchell could have really played it safe and given us something more intended for the home video market and this is what I really expected.  The posters, billboards and trailers really don’t do any justice to the movie that unfolds.  What the filmmakers have done is give audiences an enchanting film filled with so much good intentions that it’s hard not to keep a smile on your face throughout most of it.  The film has a joyful spirit that is infectious and some of the ideas that are created around the characters are clever and well thought out. The film is well paced and most of the jokes will effectively amuse both kids and their parents alike.  The visual style, with it’s eye popping colors and creative production design is interesting to look at and although the animation may feel a little generic at times, it really comes to life when the animators decide to utilize a clever scrap-booking style.

TRL_sq800_s75_f122_final_RGB_FIN – Relentlessly upbeat—if slightly naïve—troll Poppy (voiced by Anna Kendrick) sets off to rescue her friends, the Snack Pack, in DreamWorks Animation’s TROLLS. Photo Credit: DreamWorks Animation.

Relentlessly upbeat—if slightly naïve—troll Poppy (voiced by Anna Kendrick) sets off to rescue her friends, the Snack Pack, in DreamWorks Animation’s TROLLS. Photo Credit: DreamWorks Animation.

 

The characters are the key to the movie’s success.  Although there is nothing really original about the way they are written, the voice actors breathe some real life into their roles.  Anna Kendrick is perfect as Poppy, bringing an over-the-top happiness/cuteness to the character which makes her almost too likeable, something that works well within the context of the film.  Contrasting Poppy is the somber performance by Justin Timberlake as Branch.  He is a somewhat cranky Troll who is the exact opposite of all the other happy-go-lucky characters that surround him.  With all Branch’s negativity, Timberlake is still able to give him a truly lovable quality that will easily capture the audience’s hearts.

TRL_sq1925_s33_pub_141_f141_4K_RGB_FIN – From left: Young Bergen King Gristle (voiced by Christopher Mintz-Plasse) is smitten by by the newly made over Bergen scullery maid Bridget (voiced by Zooey Deschanel) in DreamWorks Animation's TROLLS. Photo Credit: DreamWorks Animation.

From left: Young Bergen King Gristle (voiced by Christopher Mintz-Plasse) is smitten by by the newly made over Bergen scullery maid Bridget (voiced by Zooey Deschanel) in DreamWorks Animation’s TROLLS. Photo Credit: DreamWorks Animation.

 

The best thing about the film is the inclusion of an endearing subplot involving a budding romance between the Bergen King Gristle and his maid Bridget. Perfectly performed by Christopher Mintz-Plasse and Zooey Deschanel, these two characters add a true charm to their relationship and some genuine emotion to the story as a whole, allowing them, at times, to really steal the show.

TROLLS

Poppy’s (center left with guitar, voiced by Anna Kendrock) rendition of “The Sounds of Silence” reaches its climax as a grumpy Branch (center right, voiced by Justin Timberlake) looks on, photo courtesy, DreamWorks Animation.

 

As much as I was having a good time watching TROLLS, the movie has one big flaw that brings the good time down.  Occasionally the film is interrupted (and that’s exactly how it felt to me, interrupted) by a musical set piece bringing all the fun to a screeching halt.  Instead of following Disney’s lead by writing some new songs that could be used to move the story forward, the filmmakers here decided to utilize some old classics instead.  Songs like Lionel Richie’s HELLO and Simon and Garfunkel’s THE SOUND OF SILENCE feel shoehorned in and out of place.  Even the choreographed moments built around the songs don’t seem to share the fun of the rest of the movie.  There’s a point in the story where Branch questions, “Seriously, more singing?” and I literally found myself thinking ,“Yeah. Seriously?”  That being said, I will admit that the use of Cyndi Lauper’s TRUE COLORS is the one musical moment that works in a truly inspired way.

TROLLS

When all is said and done, TROLLS is a much better film than most will be expecting.  With its high energy and charming use of characters, most of the flaws can be overlooked and a good time can still be had.  While it won’t go down in history as one of the great animated films given to us by DreamWork’s, it still offers up a delightful spirit and a fun time.  For more family movie news be sure to follow Adventures by Daddy on twitter and “like” our facebook page too.

About Mark Oguschewitz

Mark Oguschewitz moved to Los Angeles, California after graduating with a film degree from Columbia College in Chicago, Ill. Pursuing a career in the industry, Mark became an award winning freelance editor. He is also known for being the creative consultant for the podcast "Skywalking through Neverland" and co-host of the Podcast "Talking Apes TV." Mark's short film "Gourmet" took the Best Micro-Short honor at the International Horror and Sci-Fi film festival in 2007. His spare time is all about movies. It's not just entertainment, but has become more of a real passion, as he tries to see everything he can. Art house or Blockbuster – It doesn't matter, he loves them all.