The Bock’s Office: ‘Trolls’ helps you find your happy place
The internet age has given certain mythical creatures a bad name, but they’re taking back their honor in the animated movie “Trolls” One might argue they’re overcompensating with sweetness, but hey, we all have different tastes.
If you go…
“Trolls,” rated PG
Rating: 3 out of 4 stars
Running time: 93 minutes
Starring the voices of: Anna Kendrick, Justin Timberlake, Zooey Deschanel and Russell Brand
The tiny kingdom of the trolls is a place of unceasing jubilation, where the only thing that interrupts spontaneous song and dance numbers is an hourly hug time.
Not everyone is so happy, though — a loner named Branch (voice of Justin Timberlake) stands out from his society with a stubborn rejection of the carefree lifestyle has practiced for years, certain the day will come when disaster will strike.
Princess Poppy (Anna Kendrick) and her father King Peppy (Jeffrey Tambor) believe Branch is nothing but a sourpuss, but his survivalist instincts are proven correct when the Trolls’ biggest party of the year is interrupted by an uninvited guest, namely a Bergen (Christine Baranski), one of their mortal enemies.
With her village ransacked and her friends kidnapped, Poppy is determined to take things into her own hands and save the day, but her optimistic spirit only helps her so much, requiring a reluctant Branch to accompany her on her journey.
Kendrick’s vitality and verve haven’t failed her yet in live action or animation, so of course she provides pep aplenty as Poppy, who never says no and believes only the best in everybody around her.
That even includes a grumbling, grouchy, gloomy Gus like Branch, and half the hilarity of casting Timberlake is that his paranoid, curmudgeonly character can’t abide music.
Or a traveling companion who insists on scrapbooking her dangerous trip as it happens.
Branch’s dull gray skin tone and attitude sets him apart from his bright brethren, but it beats the putrid palette of pastels that make up the Bergens, a larger race of depressed grotesques whose only way to experience joy is eating a Troll for a quick buzz of euphoria, a tradition that went away once the smaller creatures escaped their clutches.
The fact that Bergen Town is about as cheery as recession-era Detroit can’t help.
Had Louis XIV had a green visage and been as wide as he were tall, he’d look something like the Burgens’ boy-king Gristle (Christopher Mintz-Plasse), whose whole life has been one long stretch of ennui. Little does he know he’s got an admirer in his own court, his shy, kind-hearted scullery maid (Zooey Deschanel).
Think Cinderella with greasy pigtails, an overbite and a unibrow. But she’s got a lovely personality!
There are so many similarities to so many past cartoon adventures and such a nauseating preschool approach to feelings that you wouldn’t think this would be tolerable for anyone over the age of 5.
And, yet, this insistently feel-good feature from DreamWorks Animation works like a charm to get a smile on your face with an irrepressibly high-energy approach and a design that’s not just colorful but looks like it was sponsored entirely by Hobby Lobby with the appearance of a crafter’s dream of layers and layers of felt and yarn and truckloads of glitter.
It’s by far a better look than the original inspiration: the empty-eyed pencil-toppers that somehow became a fad. But, those toys of the past have a part to play here.
As long as we’re talking about sight and sound, the music ain’t bad either.
Timberlake has a hand in half the entries on the soundtrack, singing lead on the catchy “Can’t Stop the Feeling!” — which he co-wrote with Max Martin and Shellback — and joined by cast members Gwen Stefani and Ron Funches on “Hair Up,” a remix of the classic “In the Hall of the Mountain King,” a compulsory move considering the subject matter but fun nonetheless.
Kendrick’s voice also is a delight as usual, with the stirring “Get Back Up Again” and the loudest version of “The Sound of Silence” you could hope to hear.
So much for bedtime.
Like the little imps at its center, “Trolls” has the singular goal of happiness in mind, and it succeeds with flying colors. The crew at DreamWorks may not have the depth of other studios, but they know how to make even the most sullen spectators crack a smile, and that’s certainly no small feat.
The question of whether or not they had to write characters as defecating frosted cupcakes — that’s your call.
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