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For ‘Trolls World Tour’ streaming sequel to 2016 original, bring earplugs

Rather than its originally planned theatrical release, the animated movie was released straight into the home Friday as a $19.99 digital rental.

Poppy (left), voiced by Anna Kendrick, and Branch, voiced by Justin Timberlake in the animated film “Trolls World Tour.”
Poppy (left), voiced by Anna Kendrick, and Branch, voiced by Justin Timberlake in the animated film “Trolls World Tour.”
DreamWorks Animation

“Trolls World Tour,” a sequel to the 2016 original, had been planned for theatrical release before the coronavirus pandemic.

Instead, Universal Pictures released it straight into the home Friday as a $19.99 digital rental — a rare breaking of the theatrical release window by a major studio.

That makes “Trolls World Tour” a kind of trial balloon, albeit a very glittery one.

Is it worth it? That depends on just how bored your housebound kids are. It is, at least, a shiny new object when there are few about.

Directed by Walt Dohrn, with co-director David P. Smith, “Trolls World Tour” is a sped-up version of the jukebox musical. It runs through so many songs that it might be better called a Spotify musical, with infinite skips.

Both “Trolls” movies can be hard to look at. They’re so garishly colored that I’d recommend dimming your TV set. But when they’re not too loud and you’ve sufficiently shielded your eyes, their sugary highs are pleasant enough and occasionally tuneful. An animated movie can do worse than indoctrinate another generation to the joys of Earth, Wind and Fire’s “September.”

In “World Tour,” our original clan, including Poppy (Anna Kendrick) and Branch (Justin Timberlake), discover a wider world of trolls. The trolls we know believe in the power of pop. But it turns out there are others devoted to techno, classical, country, funk and rock. There are other pockets they find along the way, including those for hip-hop, reggaeton and even dedicated yodelers.

It’s the Rock Trolls who start the trouble in “World Tour.” Their leader, Queen Barb (Rachel Bloom), sets out to dominate the other groups. Armed with heavy-metal power chords and Metallica-esque bombast, Queen Barb plots a rock reign to drown out the other styles.

The plot gives “World Tour” an opportunity to cycle through countless hits, and it does that so speedily that the film often feels less like a story than an impatient, candy-colored battle of the bands. When it slows down and allows more than a snippet of a song, “Trolls World Tour” is more enjoyable. There’s a good hip-hop interlude and a fine Kelly Clarkson country ballad.

Both “Trolls” movies exuberantly exalt the glories of diversity, and maybe some young ones will get a decent primer on a musical landscape far more vast than Kidz Bop. But “World Tour” can also sound like a bad Grammy medley that puts every genre into a blender until all the taste is rung out.