Trolls is probably the first full film my son, who is now five, ever sat through. I have since watched it more times than I’d like to admit. No, that’s a lie. I’ll happily admit I’ve watched Trolls a ton of times. The original movie was fun, engaging, had a great soundtrack, and told a well-crafted story that was good for kids and adults. Trolls was a good movie.
Heck, even the Trolls Holiday Special and the spin-off animated series are pretty strong for what they are. The point being I’ve watched a lot of Trolls over the past five years. I am a Trolls connoisseur, if you will. If there is one 37-year-old man you should listen to about Trolls it is me.
That’s all to make you understand why I’m so let down by Trolls: World Tour. Where most people would probably shrug the film off as good enough I can’t shake just how much of a letdown the movie is. Just keep in mind when you read this review that I’m most likely overreacting and for the normal human-beings out there with a family looking for a fun film the $19.99 rental price is probably worth it.
Trolls: World Tour
Director: Walt Dohrn and David P. Smith
Release Date: April 10, 2020
I’d be remiss not to mention Trolls: World Tour’s unique, and possibly industry defining, release. The movie, which was headed to theaters before COVID-19 happened released instead on streaming platforms for rental at the price of $19.99. It is the first delayed film to go directly to streaming with no theatrical release and its success or failure could affect the industry far beyond this pandemic as theater chains close down and studios look at new distribution models. We’ll have an in-depth look on that later, however, as you’re hear to know if the movie was good or not.
Trolls: World Tour picks up after the first film with Poppy (Anna Kendrick) taking on her role as queen and Branch (Justin Timberlake) taking on his role as the queen’s best friend. The Trolls are living happily in their song-filled world when suddenly it is revealed that there are more Trolls out there. Each tribe of Trolls controls a string, which correlates to a certain style of music (country, pop, funk, classical, rock, and techno) but the tribes separated years ago for mysterious reasons. However, now the leader of the rock Trolls, Barb (Rachel Bloom), is collecting the strings so she can destroy all other forms of music and rule the Trolls under rock music. Poppy and Branch set out on a quest and meet a host of new Trolls who sing songs that aren’t pop (though really, they’re all pop).
Where the original film did a fantastic job of blending its songs and characters into a strong story, Trolls: World Tour feels like more of an excuse to pump out a few more songs and keep the brand alive. The film hops into its story without much care or context, rolling from one Troll world to another without actually making anything out of them. Classical is especially short-changed but none of these areas feel like they’re there for any other reason than to feature one song and move onto the next. It’s tons of fun to look at and see the wider variety of Troll designs but it never comes together for a cohesive whole.
That might also be because the songs just aren’t as good this time around. The previously film had at least two new hits and a wealth of fantastic covers but by steering away from pop music and into other genres the film’s soundtrack kind of falls flat. It doesn’t help that almost every song in the movie could be considered pop. Even the supposedly hardcore rock Trolls sing mostly classic rock music that has, through time, morphed into pop music itself. If Ozzy Ozbourne’s “Crazy Train” is your most rock and roll song you’re not actually rock and roll. The song choices seem less thought out and almost none of them get the time they need to be actual musical numbers.
Everything in Trolls: World Tour feels rushed. From Poppy and Branch’s character growth to the world building, it all feels ramshackle and stuck together by someone more interested in selling a soundtrack than making a movie. There’s an entire plot point built around a pinky promise between Poppy and Biggie (James Corden) than never pays off. Even Timberlake, who has had a surprisingly large role in guiding this franchise, seems disinterested in his voice acting and the deeper dive into other Trolls that aren’t Poppy or Branch feels forced.
That all can, of course, be thrown out the window because my son sat still for the entire run time and laughed. Who am I to argue with results like that? Trolls: World Tour might not be as good as the original but it does give kids more Trolls and more songs and if that gives parents a break from in this time of quarantine than it’s the best movie ever made.