There’s been a weird trend recently of companies making uninspired movies about nostalgic toys: we had Battleship a few years back, and the Transformers series has been a huge hit, so now we’ve got Trolls. Why is there a movie about brightly colored toys from the ’60s? Sure this isn’t as bad as The Smurfs, but it’s nothing special.

Trolls is a simple adventure movie starring the cheery Princess Poppy (Anna Kendrick) and downer Branch (Justin Timberlake). When a group of trolls is captured to be eaten by the evil Bergens, our leads set out to rescue them, and you can guess the rest of the story.

Just about everything is bright and adorable, and the plot is punctuated with pop songs that range from Justin Timberlake to Earth, Wind & Fire. There are a couple original songs as well – my favorite is written by the duo behind last year’s La La Land and Broadway’s Dear Evan Hansen – and the big show-stopper is without a doubt the ubiquitous “Can’t Stop The Feeling!”.

Despite featuring a whole lot of songs, though, Trolls is hardly a good musical. Very little of the music contributes to the story itself, and your enjoyment of the songs will come more from recognizing them than from their quality or what they accomplish for the story and characters. While this can work in another film, Trolls simply isn’t strong enough to support itself under threat of its viewers thinking of something else. If you’re not pulled in by the bright colors and flashy musical numbers, you’ll sit there bored until you notice that you’re only about 20 minutes in.

It may appear unreasonable for me to care much about the quality of a kids’ movie like this, but I want to hold DreamWorks Animation to a higher standard. They have put out some great work; their second film ever, The Prince of Egypt, features some of the best animation that I’ve seen in a movie, and the How To Train Your Dragon series has provided some of the best reasons for us to continue paying for 3D theater tickets. DreamWorks has been very hit-and-miss lately with their releases, though, and I would call this one a miss.  Movies like Trolls, as well as Home from the year before it, just look lazy in comparison to what the studio can make.

Overall, Trolls is innocent enough and is a fine movie to put on in front of kids; they’ll be entertained by the colorful visuals, and it has a fine enough moral. You won’t find much in terms of quality, though, and the movie ends up feeling about as plastic as the toys it is based on.

Released 2016 | Rated PG | 92 Minutes | Directed by Walt DohrnMike Mitchell
Starring Anna Kendrick, Justin Timberlake

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