Trolls

(G) Voice talents of Justin Timberlake, Anna Kendrick

Life can be wonderful in the technicolour and joyful world of the trolls, except when the Bergens are involved. Happiness is the centre-point of all that the trolls do, which includes song, dance and hourly hugs. But that sort of happiness only comes around once a year for the Bergens; these bigger beasts only find it during the annual Trollstice, when they eat trolls. This tradition just will not do for the troll’s King Peppy (Jeffrey Tambor) and, in a brave escape plan, he leads his miniature community outside of the reach of the Bergens. In their new land, these vibrant creatures can sing, dance, hug and be happy all the time and after 20 years, things are still going well. What do trolls do when things are on the brighter side of life? They throw an anniversary party, of course. Princess Poppy (Anna Kendrick) decides it will be the biggest and loudest party that the community of miniature people has ever seen. As a warning against this celebration, Branch (Justin Timberlake) tells Poppy and the gang that this celebration will cause the Bergens to find them. Throwing caution to the rainbow wind, the bash begins and with it comes the unwanted attention of the Bergen Chef (Christine Baranski). The princess must enlist the help of Branch to go and save her troll friends from being the Bergen’s bite-sized happiness snacks.

With the talents of Pitch Perfect’s Anna Kendrick and Justin Timberlake at the forefront of this multi-coloured quest, it was always destined to be a musical. On this front, it will not disappoint fans of animated musical numbers. With a combination of throwback songs and the inclusion of original material, the music in Trolls will cause this soundtrack to be on the playlist of the mini-van brigade for the next year. Unlike the subdued world of the Smurfs, the Trolls production team has gone out of its way to develop a multitude of colourful characters which add fun and interest throughout this hair-raising adventure. Along with the soundtrack, parents will have a myriad of merchandise options to choose from for Christmas. For its latest attempt at creating a franchise, the Dreamworks animation company has managed to get the music, marketing and merchandising right. The key problem with the whole thing, though, comes down to the story, which is quite mundane and murky for a children’s tale.

In the attempt to strike a balance between the saccharine-sweet world of Disney and the gloomy world of Laika Entertainment (Kubo and the Two Strings), the production team provides a bi-polar experience that is less than satisfying. The over-the-top world of the trolls is cringe-worthy and unrealistic in its utopian nature, while the dreary world of the Bergens may cause some children to have nightmares. The difficulty with the life-lesson that comes out in the end will leave many parents confused and the children with an unrealistic view of the world. In the world of animation, idealism is understandable within fictional realms of creatures that pass glitter instead of gas but, ultimately, Trolls‘ take-home message is confusing and less than satisfying.
Overall, the film is harmless and similar to many other children’s films of the past, but it should carry a warning for parents to know what message is being delivered to the children.
What should parents know about Trolls? 
The heart of the story comes down to a discussion on happiness. Is it merely a feeling or is there something more to the notion of being happy? The world of the trolls communicates a message of happiness being found in actions and feelings. Happiness comes through dancing, singing and hugs. These things are not bad in themselves, but these are not truly where happiness can be found. After seeing Trolls, it might be worth talking about contentedness with life and where true joy can be found. The Bible can equip parents with this discussion and help them to point children to true satisfaction in life, that can be found in Christ.
1. What does God say about happiness? (Proverbs 3:13-18, Ecclesiastes 3:12, Philippians 4:7)
2. Where is contentedness found? (Psalm 16:8-11, Philippians 4:11-13, 1 Timothy 6:6-8)

 

Russell Matthews

Russell loves film and enjoys engaging in discussions about the latest cinema offerings and then connecting this with the Gospel. He has worked for City Bible Forum for over 10 years, is a reviewer for Insights Magazine and Entertainment Fuse and has a blog called Russelling Reviews. He moderates events for Reel Dialogue which connect the film industry with the general public.