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

If you never do anything, you never become anyone.

An Education (2009)
Carey Mulligan deserves all the attention she received for her central performance, and the depiction of the ‘60s is commendably subdued. I worried there was going to be a full-blown music montage sequence at the climax that undid all the good work, but thankfully it was fairly low key. 

Alfred Molina and Olivia Williams are especially strong in the supporting roles, and it's fortunate for credibility’s sake that that Orlando Bloom had to drop out and Dominic Cooper replaced him.
***1/2

Do you read Sutter Cane?

In the Mouth of Madness (1994)
(SPOILERS) The concluding chapter of John Carpenter’s unofficial Apocalypse Trilogy (preceded by The Thing and Prince of Darkness) is also, sadly, his last great movie. Indeed, it stands apart in the qualitative wilderness that beset him during the ‘90s (not for want of output). Michael De Luca’s screenplay had been doing the rounds since the ‘80s, even turned down by Carpenter at one point, and it proves ideal fodder for the director, bringing out the best in him. Even cinematographer Gary K Kibbe seems inspired enough to rise to the occasion. It could do without the chugging rawk soundtrack, perhaps, but then, that was increasingly where Carpenter’s interests resided (as opposed to making decent movies).

Can you close off your feelings so you don’t get crippled by the moral ambiguity of your violent actions?

Spider-Man Worst to Best

Why would I turn into a filing cabinet?

Captain Marvel (2019)
(SPOILERS) All superhero movies are formulaic to a greater or lesser degree. Mostly greater. The key to an actually great one – or just a pretty good one – is making that a virtue, rather than something you’re conscious of limiting the whole exercise. The irony of the last two stand-alone MCU pictures is that, while attempting to bring somewhat down-the-line progressive cachet to the series, they’ve delivered rather pedestrian results. Of course, that didn’t dim Black Panther’s cultural cachet (and what do I know, swathes of people also profess to loving it), and Captain Marvel has hit half a billion in its first few days – it seems that, unless you’re poor unloved Ant-Man, an easy $1bn is the new $700m for the MCU – but neither’s protagonist really made that all-important iconic impact.

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…

What, you're going to walk in there like it's the commie Disneyland or something?

Stranger Things 3 (2019)
(SPOILERS) It’s very clear by this point that Stranger Things isn’t going to serve up any surprises. It’s operating according to a strict formula, one requiring the opening of the portal to the Upside Down every season and an attendant demagorgon derivative threat to leak through, only to be stymied at the last moment by our valorous team. It’s an ‘80s sequel cycle through and through, and if you’re happy with it functioning exclusively on that level, complete with a sometimes overpowering (over)dose of nostalgia references, this latest season will likely strike you as just the ticket.

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.

How can you have time when it clearly has you?

Dark  Season 2
(SPOILERS) I’m not intending to dig into Dark zealously, as its plotting is so labyrinthine, it would take forever and a day, and I’d just end up babbling incoherently (so what’s new). But it’s worth commenting on, as it’s one of the few Netflix shows I’ve seen that feels entirely rigorous and disciplined – avoiding the flab and looseness that too often seems part and parcel of a service expressly avoiding traditional ratings models – as it delivers its self-appointed weighty themes and big ideas. And Dark’s weighty themes and big ideas really are weighty and big, albeit simultaneously often really frustrating. It came as no surprise to learn of the showrunners’ overriding fixation on determinism at work in the multi-generational, multiple time period-spanning events within the German town of Winden, but I was intrigued regarding their structural approach, based on clearly knowing the end game of their characters, rather than needing to reference (as they put it) Post-It…

Doesn't work out, I'll send her home in body bag.

Anna (2019)
(SPOILERS) I’m sure one could construe pertinent parallels between the various allegations and predilections that have surfaced at various points relating to Luc Besson, both over the years and very recently, and the subject matter of his movies, be it by way of a layered confessional or artistic “atonement” in the form of (often ingenue) women rising up against their abusers/employers. In the case of Anna, however, I just think he saw Atomic Blonde and got jealous. I’ll have me some of that, though Luc. Only, while he brought more than sufficient action to the table, he omitted two vital ingredients: strong lead casting and a kick-ass soundtrack.

Spider-Man with his hand in the cookie jar! Whoever brings me that photo gets a job.

Spider-Man 3 (2007)
(SPOILERS) Spider-Man 3 is a mess. That much most can agree on that much. And I think few – Jonathan Ross being one of them – would claim it’s the best of the Raimi trilogy. But it’s also a movie that has taken an overly harsh beating. In some cases, this a consequence of negative reaction to its most inspired elements – it would be a similar story with Iron Man Three a few years later – and in others, it’s a reflection of an overstuffed narrative pudding – so much so that screenwriter Alvin Sargent considered splitting the movie into two. In respect of the latter, elements were forced on director Sam Raimi, and these cumulative disagreements would eventually lead him to exit the series (it would take another three years before his involvement in Spider-Man 4 officially ended). There’s a lot of chaff in the movie, but there’s also a lot of goodness here, always providing you aren’t gluten intolerant.