Trolls review – a candy-coloured return for the famed ugly-lovable creatures

Anna Kendrick voices princess Poppy, the heroine of the resilient frizzy-haired toys, in this funny, kidult animation that will rival Shrek

Here is an eye-popping, candy-coloured, MSG-fuelled and cyclamate-powered new animation from Dreamworks – it does not, as may one day happen, laud those cute little critters that lurk angrily in online political chatrooms, tweeting Pepe the Frog memes. Instead, Dreamworks is attempting to take a leaf out of its own Shrek manual and build a monster hit out of an ugly-lovable creature: the frizzy-haired toys that never seem to have disappeared since the first fad erupted in the 1960s. It seems that Dreamworks has bought the entire Trolls brand, so stands to make more money than usual if it all takes off.

Not that Dreamworks’ trolls have much in common with the adorably revolting Shrek, or still less with Frozen’s icebound grumps; here they are recast as multicoloured party people, given to hourly hugs and sparkle-infested raves. The principal vehicle for this is troll princess Poppy (voiced by Anna Kendrick), an all-bases-covered heroine who is both empowered (leader, popular, gutsy) and girly (pink, cupcakes, crafts). There’s a macabre little backstory, involving the trolls escaping from some gormless ogres called Bergens, who attempt to absorb the trolls’ happiness by eating them. Having lived in secure isolation for 20 years, Poppy gives the game away by organising the mother of all sparkle-infested raves, which alerts a Bergen nasty called Chef (Christine Baranski).

After Chef kidnaps a few ancillary trolls, Poppy teams up with the security-conscious Branch – grey, non-happy, bunker-dwelling – and goes on a rescue mission to the heart of Bergentown. Without wanting to give too much away, we get the usual polished-to-halogen-brightness odd-couple hi-jinks, with the inevitable kidult pop-culturisms designed to snare the parents’ attention. (In truth, this mix of tones is getting a little self-defeating – I kind of long for a kids’ movie that isn’t full of sassy one-liners from wised-up pre-teens, or that doesn’t over-estimate children’s desensitisation levels.)

Be that as it may, some of Trolls’ setpiece gags are pretty funny, such as the cupcake droppings, or the rapid-fire fist-bump gags from the Cloud Guy. (Yes, it’s a talking cloud.) The involvement of Justin Timberlake, who confirms yet again his not-unimpressive acting chops as Branch, in a behind-the-scenes role as “executive music producer”, gives a kick to the infectious musical score. The film’s central character is not called Poppy for nothing.

It may be a counter-intuitive conclusion, but the the precision-tooled brilliance of this sort of animation is beginning to wear a little thin. Still, Trolls is a fun enough ride.


Andrew Pulver

The GuardianTramp

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