Skip to main content

Life’s not all cupcakes and rainbows.

Trolls
(2016)

(SPOILERS) I keep having to remind myself that DreamWorks Animation occasionally delivers the goods. Shrek (the first), How to Train Your Dragon (both), Mr Peabody & Sherman (no, really). When they first appeared on the scene, I rooted for them as the underdog to Pixar’s uncontested champ, and when they got that Shrek Oscar even more so. But since then, they’ve done their best – even though Pixar’s quality control has slipped, sequels and all – to erode any good will. Trolls is just the latest deficit, a musically facile day-glo assault on children everywhere’s senses that somehow slipped through the net to garland critical approval, despite the – most likely – no-more manipulative The Emoji Movie receiving unanimous critical poop-icons.


There are a lot of poop, and general excretion, jokes in Trolls, which is of course par for the course in kids’ fare today. I pine for the halcyon days when it was kind of naughty to make a funny about farting and pooping, rather than having it expressly encouraged by all and sundry. As for the title characters, I never did understand the appeal of Troll dolls, aside from melting them over a blazing fire, so I’m undoubtedly not the target market here, even in a nostalgic sense. The movie does nothing to clarify matters. It’s possibly because Trolls are Danish in origin and, as we know, the Danish are all crazy.


They’re unflaggingly cheerful, these Trolls, except for the Justin Timberlake one, but you’d be an unhappy Troll too, if you were voiced by Timberlake (at least we’re spared his dead-eyed stare), so it’s understandable that the giant Bergens should have yen for eating them during their annual Trollstice festival. I wondered if in-house DreamWorks scribes Jonathan Aibel and Glenn Berger hadn’t taken inspiration from Fraggle Rock in this regard, to considerably less endearing results, what with oversized creatures attempting to feed on cute – not that the Trolls are cute – wee ones. I was certainly minded that the animators took their cues from The Boxtrolls for the design of the Bergens (That, and Bad Santa’s Herman Merman for the child Bergens).


To be fair, the picture’s contrasting darker elements have their merits; one sequence, in the style of storybook art (faux 2D is becoming increasingly common in computer-generated animations – who knows, perhaps we’ll come full circle to the real thing eventually), sees heads of Trolls being ripped off in glorious rainbow cavalcades, like a family-rated Kingsman. There’s the occasional decent line too; in the midst of Timberlake’s heartfelt explanation for why he doesn’t warble any more, he announces that singing killed his grandma, eliciting the aside “My uncle broke his neck tap-dancing once” (I’m not sure the flashback to grandma being grabbed by a Bergen is intentionally funny, but it certainly made me laugh). There’s also a never-fails Cyrano de Bergerac bit, in which Zooey Deschanel’s junior Bergen is coaxed into asking out Christopher MIntz-Plasse’s King Gristle (“My name is Lady Glitter Sparkle Seriously”). Bergen-wise, Christine Baranski steals the vocal honours as the enthusiastically wicked Chef.


Numerous familiar tunes litter the sountrack, as is the DreamWorks way. Some (Gorillaz, Bonnie Tyler) are vaguely inspired, but the attention to ‘70s disco is vaguely worrying (notably Donna Summer), with its echoes of coke-fuelled excess. Add to that – if you’re a Pizzagate enthusiast – the young Bergens’ date night snack of choice being pepperoni, and you have a potentially raging inferno of a movie corrupting your infants’ unsuspecting morals. But maybe you shouldn’t worry. After all, “Happiness isn’t something you put inside. Its already there”.


And, if you’re a fan of farting glitter and shitting cupcakes, you can’t really go wrong with this. Or if you rate DreamWorks’ ongoing obsession with animated slo-mo. Trolls evidently made enough to get a sequel greenlit (yet The Croods, which made $250m more worldwide, got its follow up cancelled?), but possibly a precipitous drop-off awaits, a la Smurfs. Possibly, Trolls missed its chance, since Sing swung in and really went for it in the animated medley stakes. Another three years and that niche may well have been exhausted. Generally, though, this movie seems designed to encourage kids to take amphetamines in later life, so if that’s what you want for your offspring, go ahead and let them see it.


Agree? Disagree? Mildly or vehemently? Let me know in the comments below.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

She writes Twilight fan fiction.

Vampire Academy (2014)
My willingness to give writer Daniel Waters some slack on the grounds of early glories sometimes pays off (Sex and Death 101) and sometimes, as with this messy and indistinct Young Adult adaptation, it doesn’t. If Vampire Academy plods along as a less than innovative smart-mouthed Buffy rip-off that might be because, if you added vampires to Heathers, you would probably get something not so far from the world of Joss Whedon. Unfortunately inspiration is a low ebb throughout, not helped any by tepid direction from Daniel’s sometimes-reliable brother Mark and a couple of hopelessly plankish leads who do their best to dampen down any wit that occasionally attempts to surface.

I can only presume there’s a never-ending pile of Young Adult fiction poised for big screen failure, all of it comprising multi-novel storylines just begging for a moment in the Sun. Every time an adaptation crashes and burns (and the odds are that they will) another one rises, hydra-like, hoping…

You’re never the same man twice.

The Man Who Haunted Himself (1970)
(SPOILERS) Roger Moore playing dual roles? It sounds like an unintentionally amusing prospect for audiences accustomed to the actor’s “Raise an eyebrow” method of acting. Consequently, this post-Saint pre-Bond role (in which he does offer some notable eyebrow acting) is more of a curiosity for the quality of Sir Rog’s performance than the out-there premise that can’t quite sustain the picture’s running time. It is telling that the same story was adapted for an episode of Alfred Hitchcock Presents 15 years earlier, since the uncanny idea at its core feels like a much better fit for a trim 50 minute anthology series.

Basil Dearden directs, and co-adapted the screenplay from Anthony Armstrong’s novel The Strange Case of Mr Pelham. Dearden started out with Ealing, helming several Will Hay pictures and a segment of Dead of Night (one might imagine a shortened version of this tale ending up there, or in any of the portmanteau horrors that arrived in the year…

Rejoice! The broken are the more evolved. Rejoice.

Split (2016)
(SPOILERS) M Night Shyamalan went from the toast of twist-based filmmaking to a one-trick pony to the object of abject ridicule in the space of only a couple of pictures: quite a feat. Along the way, I’ve managed to miss several of his pictures, including his last, The Visit, regarded as something of a re-locating of his footing in the low budget horror arena. Split continues that genre readjustment, another Blumhouse production, one that also manages to bridge the gap with the fare that made him famous. But it’s a thematically uneasy film, marrying shlock and serious subject matter in ways that don’t always quite gel.

Shyamalan has seized on a horror staple – nubile teenage girls in peril, prey to a psychotic antagonist – and, no doubt with the best intentions, attempted to warp it. But, in so doing, he has dragged in themes and threads from other, more meritable fare, with the consequence that, in the end, the conflicting positions rather subvert his attempts at subversion…

‘Cos I’m the gringo who always delivers.

American Made (2017)
(SPOILERS) This is definitely more the sort of thing Tom Cruise should be doing, a movie that relies both on his boyish™ charm and at least has pretensions of ever so slightly pushing the envelope of standard multiplex fare, rather than desperately attaching himself to an impersonal franchise (The Mummy) or flailingly attempting to kick start one (Jack Reacher: Never Go Back); remember when Cruise wouldn’t even go near sequels (for about 20 years, The Color of Money aside, and then only the one series)? American Made is still victim to the tendency of his movies to feel superstar-fitted rather than remaining as punchy as they might be on paper (Made’s never quite as satirically sharp as it wants to be), but it at least doesn’t lead its audience by the nose.

By Jove, the natives are restless tonight.

The Avengers 4.17: Small Game for Big Hunters
I wonder if Death at Bargain Prices’ camping scene, suggestive of an exotic clime but based in a department store, was an inspiration for Small Game For Big Hunters’ more protracted excursion to the African country of Kalaya… in Hertfordshire. Gerry O’Hara, in his second of two episodes for the show again delivers on the atmosphere, making the most of Philip Levene’s teleplay.

Two hundred thousand pounds, for this outstanding example of British pulchritude and learning.

The Avengers 4.18: The Girl From Auntie
I’ve mentioned that a few of these episodes have changed in my appreciation since I last watched the series, and The Girl from Auntie constitutes a very pronounced uptick. Indeed, I don’t know how I failed to rate highly the estimable Liz Fraser filling in for Diana Rigg – mostly absent, on holiday –for the proceedings (taking a not dissimilar amateur impostor-cum-sidekick role to Fenella Fielding in the earlier The Charmers). I could watch Fraser all day, and it’s only a shame this was her single appearance in the show.

Romulan ale should be illegal.

Star Trek: Nemesis (2002)
(SPOILERS) Out of the ST:NG movies, Star Trek: Nemesis seems to provoke the most outrage among fans, the reasons mostly appearing to boil down to continuity and character work. In the case of the former, while I can appreciate the beef, I’m not enough of an aficionado to get too worked up. In the case of the latter, well, the less of the strained inter-relationships between this bunch that make it to the screen, the better (director Stuart Baird reportedly cut more than fifty minutes from the picture, most of it relating to underscoring the crew, leading to a quip by Stewart that while an Actor’s Cut would include the excised footage, a Director’s one would probably be even shorter). Even being largely unswayed by such concerns, though, Nemesis isn’t very good. It wants to hit the same kind of dramatic high notes as The Wrath of Khan (naturally, it’s always bloody Khan) but repeatedly drifts into an out-of-tune dirge.

Old Boggy walks on Lammas Eve.

Jeeves and Wooster 2.5: Kidnapped  (aka The Mysterious Stranger)
Kidnapped continues the saga of Chuffnell Hall. Having said of 2.4 that the best Wodehouse adaptations tend to stick closely to the text, this one is an exception that proves the rule, diverging significantly yet still scoring with its highly preposterous additions.

Jeeves: Tis old boggy. He be abroad tonight. He be heading for the railway station.
Gone are many of the imbroglios involving Stoker and Glossop (the estimable Roger Brierley), including the contesting of the former’s uncle’s will. Also gone, sadly, is the inebriated Brinkley throwing potatoes at Stoker, which surely would have been enormous fun. Instead, we concentrate on Bertie being locked aboard Stoker’s yacht in order to secure his marriage to Pauline (as per the novel), Chuffy tailing Pauline in disguise (so there’s a different/additional reason for Stoker to believe Bertie and she spent the night together, this time at a pub en route to Chufnell Hall) and …

Cally. Help us, Cally. Help Auron.

Blake's 7 3.7: Children of Auron

Roger Parkes goes a considerable way towards redeeming himself for the slop that was Voice from the Past with his second script for the series, and newcomer Andrew Morgan shows promise as a director that never really fulfilled itself in his work on Doctor Who (but was evident in Knights of God, the 1987 TV series featuring Gareth Thomas).

I take Quaaludes 10-15 times a day for my "back pain", Adderall to stay focused, Xanax to take the edge off, part to mellow me out, cocaine to wake me back up again, and morphine... Well, because it's awesome.

The Wolf of Wall Street (2013)
Along with Pain & Gain and The Great Gatsby, The Wolf of Wall Street might be viewed as the completion of a loose 2013 trilogy on the subject of success and excess; the American Dream gone awry. It’s the superior picture to its fellows, by turns enthralling, absurd, outrageous and hilarious. This is the fieriest, most deliriously vibrant picture from the director since the millennium turned. Nevertheless, stood in the company of Goodfellas, the Martin Scorsese film from which The Wolf of Wall Street consciously takes many of its cues, it is found wanting.

I was vaguely familiar with the title, not because I knew much about Jordan Belfort but because the script had been in development for such a long time (Ridley Scott was attached at one time). So part of the pleasure of the film is discovering how widely the story diverges from the Wall Street template. “The Wolf of Wall Street” suggests one who towers over the city like a behemoth, rather than a guy …