While “Trolls” won’t go down as an animated classic on the order of “Frozen,” “Toy Story,” “Fantastic Mr. Fox,” “WALL-E,” or “Inside Out,” it must be said this new offering from DreamWorks Animation is a total delight from start to finish. It will engage and amuse kids, but will also entertain the adults who accompany them to the multiplexes — thanks to a number of key factors.
First of all, “Trolls” is visually captivating — and that, I believe, could have been achieved even without 3D. The intensity of colors and the non-stop, almost happily manic action on the screen will keep children of all ages glued to their seats from the moment the movie opens all the way to its joyous end.
Coming, as it does, this final weekend prior to the most unpleasant presidential election cycle in recent history, “Trolls” is simply good, escapist fun — anchored by its principal theme: What, exactly, is the true nature of happiness? The not-so-subtle message here is that one should not find happiness or success in life at the expense of others. It’s a lesson that is obviously universal, but one that can always be reinforced, especially at times when happiness is indeed under siege!
The set-up is simple. The adorable little Trolls, as big-eyed and big-haired as the dolls that inspired this film, are the world’s happiest creatures, who only live to dance, sing and hug on a regular schedule of joyousness.
However, as we learn, the Trolls idyllic existence is under constant threat from the ghoulish, giant Bergens. The eternally miserable Bergens firmly believe they can only achieve happiness — even if briefly — if they eat Trolls.
This they do in an annual celebration dubbed “Trollstice.”
The most cruel of the Bergens (delightfully voiced by Christine Baranski) is Chef, who is obsessed with recapturing the Trolls (who have managed to hide themselves away from the Bergens for the past 20 years) and bring back Trollstice with a vengeance.
Co-directors Mike Mitchell and Walt Dohrn have assembled quite the cast of talented voice actors, including Anna Kendrick as female lead Princess Poppy, joined by Justin Timberlake as Branch, the one Troll who eschews all the singing, dancing and hugging, thanks to his fear of being captured and eaten by the Bergens. Timberlake also doubles as the film’s musical executive producer — adding his great skill to creating a musical backdrop that is rich and perfectly executed.
Beyond that big-name duo, the cast is packed with A-listers including Zooey Deschanel, Russell Brand, John Cleese, Gwen Stefani, Jeffrey Tambor, James Corden and Christopher Mintz-Plasse.
On all levels, “Trolls” delivers. It is nicely paced, the jokes are spot-on (and will work for both the kids and their parents) and, again, this is visually a very special piece of animated artistry.
Both the giddy little Trolls and the depressive, mean-spirited Bergens will charm you. Most important, the lessons expressed in the storyline, while pretty obvious, are not delivered in a heavy-handed way.
You simply will walk out — or perhaps dance out — of the theater feeling very happy yourself.
DreamWorks Animation presents a film directed by Mike Mitchell, co-directed by Walt Dohrn and written by Jonathan Aibel and Glenn Berger. Rated PG (for some mild rude humor). Running time: 92 minutes. Opens Friday at local theaters.