Trolls

 

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DreamWorks’ latest cartoon resurrects the gnomish toys of yore and adds a subversive spin.

 

Trolls

 

The Trolls like nothing more than to sing and dance and hug each other. They are a happy lot. And they have a point: all that singing and dancing really does release a lot of endorphins. But in this parallel universe not everyone is as ecstatic. The inhabitants of Bergen Town only get a thrill when they eat a Troll, and that’s only on one day of the year: Trollstice. So, in preparation for their annual day of festivities, the Bergens locked up all the Trolls in a cage. But that was twenty years ago, long before the Trolls had escaped underground through a network of tunnels. Now the Trolls do nothing more than sing and dance and hug all day and during one particularly rowdy celebration – complete with fireworks – their clamour attracts the attention of the mean and vengeful Chef, she who used to prepare the Trolls for the Bergens’ feast…

 

Trolls, the all-singing, all-dancing computer-animated entertainment from DreamWorks, boasts a curious provenance. The dolls that populate the film have hardly been in fashion in recent years – it was a long, long time ago when they were a must-have accessory for every young child (in the early 1960s). The toys – also known as gonk trolls – had a brief revival in the 1990s but then petered out. So the new film has a somewhat retro spin and at first promises to be a 92-minute commercial, the kind one might encounter during a slack period on daytime TV. Indeed, the range of Troll characters on display here are prodigious and come in every available colour and permutation, although the figures’ characteristic upstanding quiffs almost take centre stage. The quiffs seem to possess a life of their own, acting as tendrils, bridges and lassos, among other things. It’s quite a business.

 

Initially, adult viewers may fear a tachycardic sugar rush, but beneath all the sparkle, vibrant hues and happy songs resides a subversive intelligence. There’s also the blessing of Branch (voiced by Justin Timberlake), a paranoid survivalist and sort of Ebenezer Scrooge of the Troll universe. As he tells the joyful Princess Poppy (Anna Kendrick): “I don’t do happy.” And we know the film isn’t taking itself seriously when she serenades him with a rendition of Simon & Garfunkel’s ‘The Sounds of Silence’ and he chucks her guitar into the fire. Moments like these constantly leaven the proceedings, with popular songs such as Lionel Richie’s ‘Hello’ and Cyndi Lauper's 'True Colors' designed to elicit a smile from older viewers. There are also the in-jokes that reference everything from The Shining to Cinderella (or Anna Kendrick in Into the Woods?), which will happily bounce off children’s heads. This is not to say the film is a masterpiece but it does have the makings of a future cult classic. Besides, to be happy you don’t have to eat a Troll whole.

 

JAMES CAMERON-WILSON

 

Voices of  Anna Kendrick, Justin Timberlake, Zooey Deschanel, Russell Brand, James Corden, Gwen Stefani, Christine Baranski, John Cleese, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Jeffrey Tambor, Quvenzhané Wallis.

 

Dir Mike Mitchell and Walt Dohrn, Pro Gina Shay, Screenplay Jonathan Aibel and Glenn Berger, from a story by Erica Rivinoja, Ph Yong Duk Jhun, Pro Des Kendal Cronkhite, Ed Nick Fletcher and Julie Rogers, Music Christophe Beck.

 

DreamWorks Animation-20th Century Fox.

92 mins. USA. 2016. Rel: 21 October 2016. Cert. U.