Rated PG. Running time: 1 hour 32 min.
Our content ratings: Violence 2; Language 0; Sex/Nudity 1.
Our star rating (1-5) 3.5
Happy are those who are concerned for the poor;
the Lord will help them when they are in trouble.
“Happy are those who are merciful to others;
God will be merciful to them!
But even if you should suffer for doing what is right, how happy you are!
Do not be afraid of anyone, and do not worry.
1 Peter 3:14
In this film’s world there are two kinds of inhabitants, the always happy Trolls, and the always sad Bergens. The first are colorful little creatures whose hair stands up to a point like an artist’s paintbrush. It also serves at times as a tool, as when Poppy is falling to the ground, and her long hair forms a set of soft stairs that cushion her landing. Trolls love to sing, dance, and hug as much as any member of Whosville, and thus would be loathed by the mean old Grinch. The Begens, large potbellied creatures are even worse than Grinches. They are happy just one day a year, the festive event they call “Trollstice.”
The Bergens have managed to capture the Trolls and imprison them in a tree. Once a year they choose one of their captives to be eaten, usually by the King (voice of John Cleese), but today by his son Prince Gristle (Christopher Mintz-Plasse), for whom this will be his first taste of a Troll. Chosen by the royal servant aptly named Chef (Christine Baranski) this dubious honor falls to the little Princess Poppy (Iris Dohrn). However, when Chef uncovers the tree to select the victims, she finds just wooden dolls in the cage, the Troll King Peppy (Jeffrey Tambor) having led his subjects through a hidden tunnel and into the forest. Gloom and doom descend upon the Bergins, and Chef is banished from the kingdom. She becomes an exile, constantly on the prowl for the Trolls.
Twenty years go by, and far away deep in the forest the Trolls have started over, singing and dancing and hugging every day. Poppy is now grown up (Anna Kendrick). All of them are happy, but one—the Cassandra-like Branch (Justin Timberlake). Unlike his multi-colored neighbors, he is gray-colored. His home is a bunker, well-stocked with food and other survival materials, in the likelihood that he needs to go in hiding. Apparently, his bad memories of their captivity will not go away, so he cannot join in their partying.
On the 20th anniversary of their escape their partying is especially loud. Branch warns them again. Sure enough, Chef has heard them and is lead toward their new home by the noise of their festivities. She quickly grabs all the Trolls she can. The others hide by blending in among the trees. Poppy goes to Branch’s bunker to ask for help. When he refuses, she lets the surviving Trolls in, much to his dismay, and sets off by herself to rescue her friends.
Of course, we know that Branch will follow her, and it’s a good thing he does, rescuing the rescuer just in time before some large vicious spiders can eat her. There are lots of adventures in the Bergin castle where Chef, returning with some delicious Trolls, is back in the good graces of Prince Gristle, now, King Gristle. The adventures involve castle a scullery maid named Bridget ( Zooey Deschanel) who secretly pines for the Prince, though with little hope. Chef places the Trolls in a large pot and orders her to watch over it. There are lots of shenanigans, including: The Trolls winning over her already sympathetic heart to their side by offering to help her gain the affections of King Gristle; Poppy learning Branch’s tragic secret of why he no longer sings. During one moment when it looks as if Chef will win the day, the despairing Poppy and her friends also stop singing and lose their color. Then…
The film is a funfest for young and old, as well as a good opportunity to explore with children the concept of happiness. There are some in the world, like the Bergins, who find happiness in exploiting others. They see life as a competition in which the winners lord it over the losers, rather than as a journey of sharing and cooperating. In the Scriptures there is a word that can be translated as either “blessed” or “happy.” It is a relational word, involving God, the neighbor, and the self, and as can be seen in the Psalms and the Beatitudes of Jesus, has little to do with wealth or the myriad of things that advertisers try to convince us are necessary for happiness. Read the above sample passages, and you might agree that this happiness is counter-cultural.
As might be expected from a movie with Justin Timberlake and Anna Kendrick, the film is filled with songs, some old standards (even a rendition of “The Sounds of Silence”!), and many written by the stars. “Get Back Up Again” is a song of determination and courage sung by Poppy when she sets forth to rescue her friends. “True Colors” is a song of love and the discernment of a person’s inner worth. You can read the lyrics of several of the songs at https://lyrics.az/soundtracks/trolls/, as well as hear some of them on YouTube.
In old fairy tales Trolls were very different from the cute, cuddly creatures in our film. Far from singing and dancing, and hugging, they were ugly creatures more likely to sulk and steal. The Trolls in this film are based on those Troll Dolls so popular in the Sixties, which is one reason why I put off going to the film—I hated their creepy cuteness, and could not understand their appeal to so many people. I bought a ticket to Trolls solely because nothing else was playing before my evening film choice. I am now glad I did. Although this film is far below the studio’s Shrek, it is still enjoyable. Unfortunately, it also will push the sale of the new version of Troll Dolls.
This review with a set of questions will be in the Jan. 2017 issue of VP.