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

Poor Easy Breezy.

Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood (2019)
(SPOILERS) My initial reaction to Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood was mild disbelief that Tarantino managed to hoodwink studios into coming begging to make it, so wilfully perverse is it in disregarding any standard expectations of narrative or plotting. Then I remembered that studios, or studios that aren’t Disney, are desperate for product, and more especially, product that might guarantee them a hit. Quentin’s latest appears to be that, but whether it’s a sufficient one to justify the expense of his absurd vanity project remains to be seen.

In a few moments, you will have an experience that will seem completely real. It will be the result of your subconscious fears transformed into your conscious awareness.

Brainstorm (1983)
(SPOILERS) Might Brainstorm have been the next big thing – a ground-breaking, game-changing cinematic spectacle that had as far reaching consequences as Star Wars (special effects) or Avatar (3D) – if only Douglas Trumbull had been allowed to persevere with his patented “Showscan” process (70mm film photographed and projected at 60 frames per second)? I suspect not; one only has to look at the not-so-far-removed experiment of Ang Lee with Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk, and how that went down like a bag of cold sick, to doubt that any innovation will necessarily catch on (although Trumbull at least had a narrative hinge on which to turn his “more real than real” imagery, whereas Lee’s pretty much boiled down to “because it was there”). Brainstorm’s story is, though, like its title, possibly too cerebral, too much concerned with the consciousness and touting too little of the cloyingly affirmative that Bruce Rubin inevitably brings to his screenplays. That doesn’t mea…

I just hope my death makes more cents than my life.

Joker (2019)
(SPOILERS) So the murder sprees didn’t happen, and a thousand puff pieces desperate to fan the flames of such events and then told-ya-so have fallen flat on their faces. The biggest takeaway from Joker is not that the movie is an event, when once that seemed plausible but not a given, but that any mainstream press perspective on the picture appears unable to divorce its quality from its alleged or actual politics. Joker may be zeitgeisty, but isn’t another Taxi Driver in terms of cultural import, in the sense that Taxi Driver didn’t have a Taxi Driver in mind when Paul Schrader wrote it. It is, if you like, faux-incendiary, and can only ever play out on that level. It might be more accurately described as a grubbier, grimier (but still polished and glossy) The Talented Ripley, the tale of developing psychopathy, only tailored for a cinemagoing audience with few options left outside of comic book fare.

You can’t keep the whole world in the dark about what’s going on. Once they know that a five-mile hunk of rock is going to hit the world at 30,000 miles per hour, the people will want to know what the hell we intend to do about it.

Meteor (1979)
(SPOILERS) In which we find Sean Connery – or his agent, whom he got rid of subsequent to this and Cuba – showing how completely out of touch he was by the late 1970s. Hence hitching his cart to the moribund disaster movie genre just as movie entertainment was being rewritten and stolen from under him. He wasn’t alone, of course – pal Michael Caine would appear in both The Swarm and Beyond the Poseidon Adventure during this period – but Meteor’s lack of commercial appeal was only accentuated by how functional and charmless its star is in it. Some have cited Meteor as the worst movie of his career (Christopher Bray in his book on the actor), but its sin is not one of being outright terrible, rather of being terminally dull.

I mean, I am just a dumb bunny, but, we are good at multiplying.

Zootropolis (2016)
(SPOILERS) The key to Zootropolis’ (or Zootopia as our American cousins refer to it; the European title change being nothing to do with U2, but down to a Danish zoo, it seems, which still doesn’t explain the German title, though) creative success isn’t so much the conceit of its much-vaunted allegory regarding prejudice and equality, or – conversely – the fun to be had riffing on animal stereotypes (simultaneously clever and obvious), or even the appealing central duo voiced by Ginnifier Goodwin (as first rabbit cop Judy Hopps) and Jason Bateman (fox hustler Nick Wilde). It’s coming armed with that rarity for an animation; a well-sustained plot that doesn’t devolve into overblown set pieces or rest on the easy laurels of musical numbers and montages.

So credit’s due to co-directors Byron Howard (Bolt, Tangled) and Rich Moore (of The Simpsons, Futurama, and latterly, the great until it kind of rests on its laurels Wreck-It-Ralph) and Jared Bush (presumably one of the th…

He tasks me. He tasks me, and I shall have him.

Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan
(1982)
(SPOILERS) I don’t love Star Trek, but I do love Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. That probably isn’t just me, but a common refrain of many a non-devotee of the series. Although, it used to apply to The Voyage Home (the funny one, with the whales, the Star Trek even the target audience for Three Men and a Baby could enjoy). Unfortunately, its high regard has also become the desperate, self-destructive, song-and-verse, be-all-and-end-all of the overlords of the franchise itself, in whichever iteration, it seems. This is understandable to an extent, as Khan is that rare movie sequel made to transcendent effect on almost every level, and one that stands the test of time every bit as well (better, even) as when it was first unveiled.

You keep a horse in the basement?

The ‘Burbs (1989)
(SPOILERS) The ‘Burbs is Joe Dante’s masterpiece. Or at least, his masterpiece that isn’t his bite-the-hand-that-feeds-you masterpiece Gremlins 2: The New Batch, or his high profile masterpiece Gremlins. Unlike those two, the latter of which bolted out of the gate and took audiences by surprise with it’s black wit subverting the expected Spielberg melange, and the first which was roundly shunned by viewers and critics for being absolutely nothing like the first and waving that fact gleefully under their noses, The ‘Burbs took a while to gain its foothold in the Dante pantheon. 

It came out at a time when there had been a good few movies (not least Dante’s) taking a poke at small town Americana, and it was a Tom Hanks movie when Hanks was still a broad strokes comedy guy (Big had just made him big, Turner and Hooch was a few months away; you know you’ve really made it when you co-star with a pooch). It’s true to say that some, as with say The Big Lebowski, “got it” on fi…

Never compare me to the mayor in Jaws! Never!

Ghostbusters (2016)
(SPOILERS) Paul Feig is a better director than Ivan Reitman, or at very least he’s savvy enough to gather technicians around him who make his films look good, but that hasn’t helped make his Ghostbusters remake (or reboot) a better movie than the original, and that’s even with the original not even being that great a movie in the first place.

Along which lines, I’d lay no claims to the 1984 movie being some kind of auteurist gem, but it does make some capital from the polarising forces of Aykroyd’s ultra-geekiness on the subject of spooks and Murray’s “I’m just here for the asides” irreverence. In contrast, Feig’s picture is all about treating the subject as he does any other genre, be it cop, or spy, or romcom. There’s no great affection, merely a reliably professional approach, one minded to ensure that a generous quota of gags (on-topic not required) can be pumped out via abundant improv sessions.

So there’s nothing terribly wrong with Ghostbusters, but aside from …

He mobilised the English language and sent it into battle.

Darkest Hour (2017)
(SPOILERS) Watching Joe Wright’s return to the rarefied plane of prestige – and heritage to boot – filmmaking following the execrable folly of the panned Pan, I was struck by the difference an engaged director, one who cares about his characters, makes to material. Only last week, Ridley Scott’s serviceable All the Money in the World made for a pointed illustration of strong material in the hands of someone with no such investment, unless they’re androids. Wright’s dedication to a relatable Winston Churchill ensures that, for the first hour-plus, Darkest Hour is a first-rate affair, a piece of myth-making that barely puts a foot wrong. It has that much in common with Wright’s earlier Word War II tale, Atonement. But then, like Atonement, it comes unstuck.

I can't lie to you about your chances, but... you have my sympathies.

"Predalien" The Alien-Predator-verse ranked
Fox got in there with the shared universe thing long before the current trend. Fortunately for us, once they had their taste of it, they concluded it wasn’t for them. But still, the Predator and Alien franchises are now forever interconnected, and it better justifies a ranking if you have more than six entries on it. So please, enjoy this rundown of the “Predalien”-verse. SPOILERS ensue…
11. Alien vs. Predator: Requiem (2007)
An almost wilfully wrongheaded desecration of both series’ legacies that attempts to make up for AVP’s relative prurience by being as transgressive as possible. Chestbursters explode from small children! Predaliens impregnate pregnant mothers! Maternity wards of babies are munched (off-screen admittedly)! It’s as bad taste as possible, and that’s without the aesthetic disconnect of the Predalien itself, the stupidest idea the series has seen (and that includes the newborn), one that was approved/encouraged by ra…