As the first movie to jump ship from theatrical to VOD at the start of the pandemic, “Trolls World Tour” set a precedent. Dozens of movies have followed suit, but this will be remembered as the first. Unfortunately, that is the only groundbreaking thing about this Anna Kendrick and Justin Timberlake sequel.
Returning from 2016’s “Trolls” are Queen Poppy (Kendrick), and her best friends Branch (Timberlake) and Biggie (James Corden). They are pop music loving Trolls who pass the days singing, dancing and hugging until Poppy discovers that there are five other Troll tribes, divided by their musical taste. “The truth is we are not alone in this world,” says King Peppy (Walt Dohrn, who also directs). “There are other kinds of Trolls. They are not like us. They are different ways in you can’t even imagine. We love music with a hummable hook, a catchy rhythm, and an upbeat melody that makes you want to wiggle your butt. These others Trolls sing different. They dance different. Some of them can’t even grasp the concept of ‘Hammer Time.’”
The Queen and Company set off on a fact-finding mission to visit the other musical colonies. “I can’t stay home when I know there is a world of Trolls out there,” she says. On her journey she discovers sounds she doesn’t quite understand. “They must not know that music’s supposed to make you happy,” she says as a mournful (but not too mournful, this is a “Trolls” movie after all) country song fills the soundtrack. Later, after hearing classical music for the first time she wonders aloud, “Where’s the words?” But she also discovers a threat in the form of Metal Queen Barb (Rachel Bloom) who plans to use “the ultimate power chord” to assert rock’s place as the official music of all Trolls. “By the end of my world tour we’re all going to have the same vibe,” says Barb. “We’ll be one nation of trolls under rock!”
“Trolls World Tour” is an update of the “Free To Be… You and Me’s” salute to individuality, tolerance, and comfort with one’s identity. Bathed in bright colours, set to kid friendly adaptations of pop, rock, rap and country hits (like “Trolls Just Wanna Have Fun”) and populated by vinyl creatures with DayGlo “Eraserhead” coifs and big goofy smiles, it’s a jukebox movie about finding the things that bring us together, not divide us, while maintaining the things that make us unique. “Denying our differences is denying the truth of who we are,” says King Quincy (Parliament-Funkadelic’s George Clinton).
Good messages wrapped up in a glitzy, frenetic package is the stock in trade of kid’s entertainment and “Trolls World Tour” delivers in those regards. The colourful visuals, seemingly designed by a Troll on acid, will make kid’s eyeballs dance and the messages are delivered with the subtlety of a slap to the face, so check and check. What’s missing is the wonderful weirdness that made the original “Trolls” film the strangest children’s entertainment since “H.R. Pufnstuf.” Story wise, this one feels formulaic with less of an edge, but it does deliver a blast of energy that will keep its target audience—kids and stoned adults—happy.
Richard sits in with Marcia MacMillan to have a look at the big weekend movies, Peter Berg’s ripped-from-the-headlines “Patriot’s Day,” “Live By Night” from director-actor Ben Affleck, the terrible “Monster Trucks” and the sublime “20th Century Women” and “Paterson.”
TODAY! TODAY! TODAY! The worst movie on four wheels! No adrenaline pumping action! “Monster Trucks!” We’ll sell you the whole seat… to make it easy to take a nap!
“Monster Trucks” begins when avaricious oil baron Reece Tenneson (Rob Lowe) insists on drilling through an underground water main to get to “the ocean of oil” that lies underneath despite the possibility of disturbing the life forms that may live down there. “If we keep this quiet will all do very well,” cackles Tenneson. His greed unleashes several strange creatures, sort of land squids with big googly eyes, whom he immediately orders destroyed.
On the other side of town Tripp (Lucas Till) is a curiously old high school student and scrap yard worker. He’s a blonde James Dean type, an outsider more comfortable around cars than people. When one of these creatures shows up at his junkyard he doesn’t set it free, nor does he call the authorities. After discovering oil is this tentacled creature’s mother’s milk, as any true grease monkey would do, he straps it to the underside of an old truck he’s been working on, using it as a super-charged engine, literally turning his old junker into a “monster truck.”
With the help of biology student Meredith (Jane Levy) and the creature—who Tripp inventively nicknames Creatch—our hero tries find out exactly where his oil-guzzling new friend came from.
Fittingly “Monster Trucks,” a movie about automobiles, is my first seatbelt movie of the year. It is a film so bad I needed to a seatbelt to keep me in my chair for the entire movie.
Forget that Tripp looks old enough to be his high school classmates’ hip guidance counsellor or that the sum total of the great Amy Smart’s role is advising her son what to eat for lunch or that a sea monster appears in the landlocked state of North Dakota. That stuff is bad enough, but the thing that really puts “Monster Trucks” on a collision course with the ditch is a complete lack of playfulness.
What might have been a fun action-adventure with a kid friendly sci fi twist is, instead, a collection of lame brained ideas that feel strung and in search of a heartwarming or interesting moment. “E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial,” another alien movie, works not because we believe the little rubber alien is real but because we care about the way that Elliot, Gertie and Michael interact with him. Despite the presence of a rubber alien it feels authentic and not cobbled together by a marketing department.
When Tripp’s dad (Frank Whaley) says, “It’s like the earth got mad and let something bad out,” he may well have been speaking about this movie and not Creatch.