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.