APRIL 11, 2020

“This is going to take a lot of hugs.”

— Branch (Justin Timberlake)

The world of Trolls just got bigger, but unfortunately, that doesn’t mean it got better.

Welcome to a new era of movies, where movie theaters are involuntarily closed, audiences are sequestered in their homes, and major studios are skipping the theatrical release window. Where most studios pushed their movies back to the end of the year or even into next year, Universal and Dreamworks decided to throw caution to the wind and deliver “Trolls World Tour” to the public on its original release date, sans a theatrical release. Seeing as the original “Trolls” made $346 million worldwide and this latest installment has an estimated production budget of $100 million, the decision to release day-and-date could not have been easily made.

“Trolls World Tour” sets out to expand the Trolls’ universe, at least geographically. But, in the process, diminishes just about everything else, including the stakes, catchiness, and the viewer’s emotional involvement. Still, there are laughs to be had and with its unique animation style, this Dreamworks production still finds a way to be enjoyable.

In the first “Trolls,” the lovable singing creatures were fighting for survival. The Bergens were trying to eat them. As in, end their lives. So when the only thing being threatened this time around is their individuality, it doesn’t feel as dire.

Barb (Rachel Bloom), the queen of the Rock music Trolls, is playing dictator, which is the furthest thing from Rock and Roll if you ask me. She’s traveling on a “world” tour, collecting the six strings that are harbored by each of the different genres of Trolls including Funk, Country, Techno, Classical, Pop, and Rock. Her goal is to make every Troll a Rock and Roll zombie. Why? Well, they don’t even really give her a decent reason.

One Troll that’s not taking this lying down is Poppy (Anna Kendrick), queen of the Pop music Trolls. Determined to get Queen Barb to see things her way, she sets off in a hot air balloon with Branch (Justin Timberlake), Biggie (James Corden), and Mr. Dinkles. They come across colorful characters along the way, like country music Trolls Delta Dawn (Kelly Clarkson) and Hickory (Sam Rockwell), Funk music royalty King Quincy (George Clinton) and Queen Essence (Mary J. Blige), and a wheelchair-bound Rocker named Thrash (Ozzy Osbourne).

One thing they never come across is any music that resonates with the story. The first film was jam-packed with catchy music. I hesitate to even say “catchy,” because that’s the point this film’s trying to make. Just because I don’t find it catchy, doesn’t mean there’s not someone out there that does. However, in the first film, they found a way to thread the music into the fabric of the story. From the Bergens murmuring “Clint Eastwood” by Gorillaz to the Trolls singing “Can’t Stop The Feeling,” one of the best songs to ever come out of an animated movie, there was something for everyone. There may have been no living up to that, but not a single song in “World Tour” even comes close.

The fact that the music pales in comparison is likely where the emotional resonance falls off as well. I remember being on the verge of tears during Branch’s “True Colors” rendition in the first “Trolls.” They try several times to recreate that in “World Tour,” but none land. They also bury Branch in Christoph’s storyline from “Frozen II,” where his only feat is to try and find a way to tell Poppy that he loves her.

Comedy comes from just about everything else. Most of it was seen in the advertising, like the Smooth Jazz Troll hypnosis and Branch slurring “I can’t feel my face.” Or probably the best moment of the whole film, where Poppy and Biggie make a pinky promise the likes of which no one has ever seen (“a pinky promise… dang”). Another moment that I found hilarious was a double-dip from the first film, where Cooper (Ron Funches) poops out a cupcake when he’s scared, except this time, he poops out a full cake, candles, and the flames for the candles. Guy Diamond’s offspring, Tiny Diamond (Kenan Thompson) has some enjoyable moments as well.

“Trolls World Tour” may not live up to its predecessor, but it does a decent job of producing laughs and looking great while doing it. The textured fabric look of the world and endless amounts of glitter never get old. There are plenty of morals to sift through, like respecting different cultures, and plenty of adventure to be had, with several sequences that borrow straight from chases in “Mad Max: Fury Road,” but don’t expect anything more than surface-level entertainment. The question that overshadows the film is how much money it will make during its unprecedented release and if this will be the ultimate nail in the coffin for theatrical release windows.

April 10, 2020

Walt Dohrn

Jonathan Aibel
Glenn Berger
Elizabeth Tippet
Maya Forbes
Wallace Wolodarsky

DreamWorks Animation
Universal Pictures

(for some mild rude humor)


90 minutes

Theodore Shapiro

Nick Fletcher

Anna Kendrick
Justin Timberlake
Rachel Bloom
James Corden
Ron Funches
Kelly Clarkson
Anderson Paak
Sam Rockwell
George Clinton
Mary J. Blige
Kenan Thompson

Gina Shay

$100 million

Amazon on April 11, 2020

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