When the opening scene of a film has a major plothole that nags at you for the rest of the film, then that spells trouble. And Trolls has such a plothole. Fortunately, the rest of the film is so sweet, cute, colourful, fun and good-natured that it makes up somewhat for said issue. But it still sits in the back of your mind and never quite goes away.
And what is the plothole? Well, the opening scene sets up the world and the story. The trolls live in a lovely big tree smack in the middle of Burgentown. The trolls are tiny, colourful, cute, happy and very, very optimistic – the world is a bright, shiny place full of fun and singing and dancing and lots of hugs. The ogre-like Burgens, though, are big, lumbering, ugly and incredibly pessimistic. They are permanently unhappy – in fact, the only time they are actually happy is when they eat a troll. So every year, at Trollstice, they have a big festival where they cook and eat as many trolls as they can get their hands on. But one year, when they go to the tree to get some trolls, they find little wooden figures in their place – the trolls have scarpered through some hidden tunnels.
And therein lies a major issue I have with the film. Why did the trolls stay in Burgentown for so long if they find themselves being eaten every year? And why did the Burgens eat trolls just once a year if eating a troll was the only thing that made them happy? (As an aside, is it just me or does a film full up pumping dance tunes that is about people who are only happy when they ingest a small colourful object seem to be promoting drug culture?)
But that (fairly big) issue aside, Trolls is actually alright. It's a generic buddy/rescue comedy that's based on those big-haired troll dolls (sometimes known as Gonks) that were strangely popular back in the 1970s and 80s (there's a lot of influence from that era on this film, especially in the music). The trolls have been living in peace for some years, safely hidden away from the Bergens. But one night during a particularly noisy party with some extra-colourful fireworks, the ostracised Bergen Chef (Christine Baranski) – who was kicked out of Bergentown when all the trolls disappeared years before – spots the colony and quickly seizes her chance to get back in the town's good books, so she grabs a bunch of trolls and heads home. So Princess Poppy (Anna Kendrick) and some of her pals head off to save them – and somehow talk Branch (Justin Timberlake), the only pessimistic, unhappy, paranoid troll, to come along and help them.
This is the 33rd animated feature from DreamWorks Animation, and it's not quite up there with the studio's best – such as Antz, Shrek, Madagascar, Megamind, Kung Fu Panda or How to Train Your Dragon. Visually it's stunning, but that is to be expected because CGI is constantly improving as the technology gets more powerful. The troll characters are cute and very sweet, and they have the natty ability of being able to extend and use their hair for all kinds of things (using it as a whip to beat back some vicious spiders one one particularly handy trick). The songs are fun and as we all know, Kendrick and Timberlake are excellent singers. There are some decent gags, including one particularly sparkly troll who farts glitter, and the central message – that the ability to be happy is in each and every one of us – is a great one. The voice cast, too, is decent – although once again John Cleese pops up playing a DreamWorks king, and Russell Brand seems to be cinema's go-to Brit for some reason. And the 3D is fine, without adding much extra to the experience. But that initial plothole just keeps nagging away through the film.
Trolls is not a bad film, and there's enough brightness, colour and great music to keep the kids entertained for 90-odd minutes. But it doesn't really do anything special or enough to make it stand out from the animated crowd.