Trolls

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Robin Clifford of Reeling Reviews
Robin Clifford 
Trolls
Laura Clifford of Reeling Reviews
Laura Clifford 

The tiny Trolls just want to be happy and sing, dance and, especially, hug every hour. The Bergans, on the other hand, are miserable creatures who find happiness only when they have trolls in their bellies. When the Bergen king’s Royal Chef (Christine Baranski) captures a group of the diminutive trolls to make King Gristle (Christopher Mintz-Plasse) happy, Princess Poppy (Anna Kendrick), and the reluctant Branch (Justin Timberlake), comes up with a plan to save their endangered friends in “Trolls.”

Robin:
OK, moms and dads, the good news is: you will not mind taking the kids to see this bright, colorful and often funny creation by the folks at DreamWorks, who bought the Troll doll brand outright in 2013. Everyone is familiar with, for a long, long time, the ubiquitous phenomenon these dolls have been (and, with the release of “Trolls,” will be again). I was way too old to care when the dolls made their debut in the 1960s and revived again in the 1970s through the 90s, but I like  directors Walt Dohrn and Mike Mitchell’s imagining of the world of Trolls and Bergens.

First and foremost, “Trolls” is a kids’ adventure movie that is full of good, positive messages about helping and protecting our family, friends and neighbors. The film begins on the Bergen holiday of Trollstice, when the captive Trolls are sacrificed on the day when Bergens can eat a Troll and be happy. But, before the celebration and feast begin, the Trolls, led by King Peppy (Jeffrey Tambor), make a successful escape and find sanctuary far away from the dreaded Bergens and their dreaded Trollstice.

20 years pass and the Trolls, thinking they are safe, resume their old ways: singing, dancing, hugging and, especially, making a lot of noise, led by the exuberant Princess Poppy (Anna Kendrick). Troll cynic, the gray-hued Branch (Justin Timberlake), repeatedly warns the Trolls to quiet down or attract Bergen attention. No one believes him and the party goes on.

Back in Bergentown, the humiliated Royal Chef notices the commotion and promises the king that he will soon be happy (AKA, eat a Troll). The Chef raids the Troll enclave and takes a bunch of Poppy’s friends prisoner for the king” pleasure. Of course, the headstrong princess makes plans to free her friends and cajoles the doubtful Branch, and others, to join her in the rescue. That is enough about the story. If you are curious, go see “Trolls.”

Anna Kendrick, whether live or animated, is always a positive presence and does it again as the cheerful, optimistic Princess Poppy. Justin Timberlake gives a good character arc to his Branch, changing from negative and grumpy – he will not sing because singing caused him tragedy when he was a young Troll – to colorful hero who brims with song. The rest of the cast is big and full of name personalities, including but not limited to: Zooey Deschanel, Mintz-Plasse, Baranski, Russell Brand, Gwen Stephani, John Cleese, Tambor and James Corden. The filmmakers brought out a lot of big guns and the result is full of colorful and funny characters.

“Trolls” is aimed squarely at the kids’ market and it will strike a chord with the under 10 set with its positive messages of love thy neighbor and be happy. Parents, as I said, will give a sigh of relief at the subtlety of much of the humor made, specifically, for them. I do not have kids and was reluctant about seeing a film with lots of songs (I am not a fan of musicals) and characters I do not really care about. That said, I had a good time watching, had some laughs and did not walk out with a headache. That is high praise for me. I give it a B.

Laura:
When she was just a child, Princess Poppy's (voice of Anna Kendrick) father King Peppy (voice of Jeffrey Tambor) saved his kingdom from the Bergens, the miserable giants who'd discovered the only thing that made them happy was devouring Peppy's people.  Now an adult, Poppy's embrace of singing, dancing and constant celebration doesn't sit well with Branch (voice of Justin Timberlake), a sullen survivalist who keeps warning of the Bergens they haven't seen in twenty years. He's proven right when the Bergen's banished Royal Chef (voice of Christine Baranski) spies their fireworks and kidnaps Poppy's 'snack squad.'  It's now up to the inexperienced Princess to save her "Trolls."

Working with a script from "Kung Fu Panda" series writers Jonathan Aibel & Glenn Berger, Dreamworks animation codirectors Mike Mitchell ("Shrek Forever After") and Walt Dohrn ("Donkey's Christmas Shrektacular") have created a day-glo musical about finding one's inner happiness.  It's a cute outing with parallel opposites attract love stories. While the story's message is fairly original, many of its elements are not, from a roller skating twist on Cinderella to the plight and class elements of "The Boxtrolls" to sight gags cribbed from Pixar and Dreamworks' own "Madagascar" series. Adult wit is at a premium, but the filmmakers distract with an abundance of glitter, cowbells and their own DJ Suki (voice of Gwen Stefani).

Branch is in 'I told you' mode when he shows Poppy his bunker, full of traps and enough supplies to last him ten years.  But the determined troll turns tables on him, inviting the remaining residents to enter.  Branch grumpily volunteers to accompany her on her mission, with a song or two and a strange encounter with a talking Cloud along the way.  Once there, Poppy extends her big heart to Bergen scullery maid Bridget (voice of Zooey Deschanel) when she realizes Bridget yearns for happiness with none other than the Bergen's Prince Gristle (voice of Christopher Mintz-Plasse), the trolls hunkering down on her head to create a rainbow fall that glams up the girl.  Romance ensues, but Chef interferes and the Prince is distraught by the idea of celebrating his first 'Trollstice,' the once annual feast that hasn't been held in his lifetime, without her.

Nostalgia buffs may be disappointed that most trolls do not hew more closely to the dolls which became popular in the 1960's, but the animators have given us plenty of eye candy nonetheless.  There are tiny trolls and Biggie (voice of James Corden), the plush giraffe-like Cooper and Mr. Dinkles, the little caterpillar Biggie adores. The vocal cast includes everyone from John Cleese (as the Bergen King), Russell Brand (as Poppy's crush Creek) and "Beasts of the Southern Wild's" Quvenzhané Wallis. Kendrick and Timberlake make beautiful music together from her cover of 'The Sounds of Silence' to an apt duet of Cyndi Lauper's 'True Colors.'

Grade:  B-
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