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…

My name is Dr. King Schultz, this is my valet, Django, and these are our horses, Fritz, and Tony.

Django Unchained (2012)
(MINOR SPOILERS) Since the painful misstep of Grindhouse/Death Proof, Quentin Tarantino has regained the higher ground like never before. Pulp Fiction, his previous commercial and critical peak, has been at very least equalled by the back-to-back hits of Inglourious Basterds and Django Unchained. Having been underwhelmed by his post Pulp Fiction efforts (albeit, I admired his technical advances as a director in Kill Bill), I was pleasantly surprised by Inglourious Basterds. It was no work of genius (so not Pulp Fiction) by any means, but there was a gleeful irreverence in its treatment of history and even to the nominal heroic status of its titular protagonists. Tonally, it was a good fit for the director’s “cool” aesthetic. As a purveyor of postmodern pastiche, where the surface level is the subtext, in some ways he was operating at his zenith. Django Unchained is a retreat from that position, the director caught in the tug between his all-important aesthetic pr…

Whoever comes, I'll kill them. I'll kill them all.

John Wick: Chapter 2 (2017)
(SPOILERS) There’s no guessing he’s back. John Wick’s return is most definite and demonstrable, in a sequel that does what sequels ought in all the right ways, upping the ante while never losing sight of the ingredients that made the original so formidable. John Wick: Chapter 2 finds the minimalist, stripped-back vehicle and character of the first instalment furnished with an elaborate colour palette and even more idiosyncrasies around the fringes, rather like Mad Max in that sense, and director Chad Stahleski (this time without the collaboration of David Leitch, but to no discernible deficit) ensures the action is filled to overflowing, but with an even stronger narrative drive that makes the most of changes of gear, scenery and motivation.

The result is a giddily hilarious, edge-of-the-seat thrill ride (don’t believe The New York Times review: it is not “altogether more solemn” I can only guess Jeannette Catsoulis didn’t revisit the original in the interven…

I should have mailed it to the Marx Brothers.

Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989)
When your hero(es) ride off into the sunset at the end of a film, it’s usually a pretty clear indication that a line is being drawn under their adventures. Sure, rumours surfaced during the ‘90s of various prospective screenplays for a fourth outing for the whip-cracking archeologist. But I’m dubious anyone really expected it to happen. There seemed to be a natural finality to Last Crusade that made the announcement of his 2007 return nostalgically welcome but otherwise unwarranted. That it turned out so tepid merely seemed like confirmation of what we already knew; Indy’s time was past.

No time to dilly-dally, Mr Wick.

John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum (2019)
(SPOILERS) At one point during John Wick: Chapter 3 - Parabellum, our eponymous hero announces he needs “Guns, lots of guns” in a knowing nod to Keanu Reeves’ other non-Bill & Ted franchise. It’s a cute moment, but it also points to the manner in which the picture, enormous fun as it undoubtedly is, is a slight step down for a franchise previously determined to outdo itself, giving way instead to something more self-conscious, less urgent and slightly fractured.

I don’t think you will see President Pierce again.

The Ballad of Buster Scruggs (2018)
(SPOILERS) The Ballad of Buster Scruggs and other tall tales of the American frontier is the title of "the book" from which the Coen brothers' latest derives, and so announces itself as fiction up front as heavily as Fargo purported to be based on a true story. In the world of the portmanteau western – has there even been one before? – theme and content aren't really all that distinct from the more familiar horror collection, and as such, these six tales rely on sudden twists or reveals, most of them revolving around death. And inevitably with the anthology, some tall tales are stronger than other tall tales, the former dutifully taking up the slack.

She worshipped that pig. And now she's become him.

The Girl in the Spider’s Web (2018)
(SPOILERS) Choosing to make The Girl in the Spider’s Web following the failure of the David Fincher film – well, not a failure per se, but like Blade Runner 2049, it simply cost far too much to justify its inevitably limited returns – was a very bizarre decision on MGM’s part. A decision to reboot, with a different cast, having no frame of reference for the rest of the trilogy unless you checked out the Swedish movies (or read the books, but who does that?); someone actually thought this would possibly do well? Evidently the same execs churning out desperately flailing remakes based on their back catalogue of IPs (Ben-Hur, The Magnificent Seven, Death Wish, Tomb Raider); occasionally there’s creative flair amid the dross (Creed, A Star is Born), but otherwise, it’s the most transparently creatively bankrupt studio there is.

I mean, I think anybody who looked at Fred, looked at somebody that they couldn't compare with anybody else.

Won’t You Be My Neighbor? (2018) 
(SPOILERS) I did, of course, know who Fred Rogers was, despite being British. Or rather, I knew his sublimely docile greeting song. How? The ‘Burbs, naturally. I was surprised, given the seeming unanimous praise it was receiving (and the boffo doco box office) that Won’t You Be My Neighbor? didn’t garner a Best Documentary Oscar nod, but now I think I can understand why. It’s as immensely likeable as Mr Rogers himself, yet it doesn’t feel very substantial.

Our very strength incites challenge. Challenge incites conflict. And conflict... breeds catastrophe.

The MCU Ranked Worst to Best

I think, I ruminate, I plan.

The Avengers 6.5: Get-A-Way
Another very SF story, and another that recalls earlier stories, in this case 5.5: The See-Through Man, in which Steed states baldly “I don’t believe in invisible men”. He was right in that case, but he’d have to eat his bowler here. Or half of it, anyway. The intrigue of Get-A-Way derives from the question of how it is that Eastern Bloc spies have escaped incarceration, since it isn’t immediately announced that a “magic potion” is responsible. And if that reveal isn’t terribly convincing, Peter Bowles makes the most of his latest guest spot as Steed’s self-appointed nemesis Ezdorf.