Movie Review: Trolls World Tour

Plot: Queen Poppy’s (Anna Kendrick) world is turned upside down when she discovers that her kingdom is one of six tribes all based on music–pop, rock, techno, country, classical, and funk. Moreover Queen Barb (Rachel Bloom) of the Rock Trolls is on a mission to steal each tribe’s sacred string and unite all Trolls under her rule. With the assistance of her best friend Branch (Justin Timberlake), Poppy sets out on a quest to stop Queen Barb, protect her people, and learn some valuable lessons about the beauty of differences along the way.

Review: So confession time, I secretly love director Mike Mitchell’s 2016 Trolls. It’s perpetually optimistic and colorful, touts some amazing original songs, and quite hilarious to boot. Kendrick and Timberlake have great chemistry as well and Jonathan Aibel and Glenn Berger’s script is both earnest, endearing, and polished. The film was a huge hit at both the box office and with fans and critics so a sequel was inevitable. Unfortunately, Trolls World Tour comes nowhere close to the originality of its predecessor. The result is a bland if serviceable sequel that will last in your memory for the length of the credits.

Trolls World Tour suffers the unfortunate side effect of “too many cooks in the kitchen” when it comes to the script. While Aibel and Berger are back for the sequel, three other writers contributed to the screenplay and it shows. The messages are muddled and the tone shifts on a dime. Whereas the original possesses a certain degree of whimsy, it’s noticeably lacking here. In addition, Trolls World Tour comes off darker than the first and some of the aforementioned boundless optimism is muted. This is exemplified by the music sequence involving country music troll Delta Dawn (Kelly Clarkson) who sings Lana Del Rey’s, “Born To Die.” To say this seems slightly morbid and out of place for a kids movie is an understatement.

This isn’t to say that Trolls World Tour is humorless. There’s several funny moments including an encounter between duo Poppy and Branch and a Smooth Jazz Troll bounty hunter named Chaz (Jamie Dornan). Kenan Thompson is also great as Tiny Diamond, the newborn son of Guy Diamond (Kunal Nayyar). It’s just too bad the comedic timing and panache of bergens Gristle (Christopher Mintz-Plasse) and Bridget (Zooey Deschanel) are almost completely lacking from Trolls World Tour. Leaving Gristle and Bridget out of this film was a huge mistake by first time director Walt Dohm. Dohm’s direction lacks the polish and finesse of his predecessor Mike Mitchell.

On the positive side Kendrick and Timberlake still possess great chemistry and slip back into the roles of Poppy and Branch with ease. Their singing prowess is also just as good if not better than the first. I just wish Trolls World Tour had more original songs. Instead it feels more like a “best hits” of the musical genres it examines, everything from “Crazy Train” to “Russian Roulette.” I get that maybe that’s part and parcel of the film, but it didn’t work for me. Rachel Bloom (Crazy Ex-Girlfriend) proves to be a welcome addition to the franchise as her comedy chops shine through. I sincerely hope she comes back for the inevitable third film. Her Queen Barb possesses a tough exterior but inside desperately just wants friendship. In a very strange way it’s a commentary about the inherent loneliness of leadership.

Whereas the overarching theme of the first Trolls movie was that true, lasting happiness can never be achieved through external means, Trolls World Tour gets even deeper. Ultimately it’s about the dangers of tribalism and that our differences are something to be lauded not eliminated. While ostensibly an important message (and it is), it’s also executed with all the subtlety of a jackhammer to a concrete street. To be fair though, it is a children’s movie so maybe I’m being overly harsh.

If you get down to where the troll hair meets the roots of the plastic scalp, Trolls World Tour is a perfectly serviceable if unremarkable sequel. It’s a nice distraction for the kiddies during these uncertain times. However, if you’re expecting anything beyond a mere distraction, you’ll be sorely disappointed.

My rating System:

0-1 God Awful Blind Yourself With Acid Bad
2 Straight Garbage
3 Bad
4 Sub Par
5 Average
6 Ok
7 Good
8 Very Good
9 Great
10 A Must See

Trolls World Tour: 5/10