Trolls World TourreviewApril 10, 2020
Trolls World Tour
Cast: Anna Kendrick, Justin Timberlake, Rachel Bloom, James Corden, Ron Funches, Kelly Clarkson, Anderson .Paak, Sam Rockwell, George Clinton, Mary J. Blige, Kenan Thompson, Kunal Nayyar, Jamie Dornan, Ozzy Osbourne
Directors: Walt Dohrn, David P. Smith
Rating: Rated PG for some mild rude humor
Running Time: One hour, 30 minutes
BY DAN LYBARGER
The first Trolls movie from 2016 proved that cute could only carry an animated movie so far. For the sequel, it’s helpful that Queen Poppy (voiced by Anna Kendrick) and her grumpy pal Branch (Justin Timberlake) must go somewhere in Trolls World Tour.
As the title implies, they travel every inch where the adorable, messy-haired creatures created by Danish woodcutter Thomas Dam might reside. They can’t simply harmonize on pop tunes, even if that’s what Timberlake usually does for a living.
In the new installment, we learn there are several different realms where trolls reside, and each of these little fiefdoms features a music all its own. We start the film, not in Poppy’s land, but in an undersea kingdom where EDM is the regional genre.
This upsets Queen Barb (Rachel Bloom) who wants to make the entire world shake to the sound of her screeching guitar. That’s understandable because Ozzy Osbourne provides the voice of her addled dad. While exposing other trolls to unfamiliar tunes like “Barracuda,” “Crazy Train” or “Rock You Like a Hurricane” could be a good thing, Barb thinks all other types of music are boring and fears how the pop that Poppy and Branch sing might get buried in her head.
If you land features classical, Latin, K-Pop, funk or hip hop, yodeling or smooth jazz, it won’t for much longer.
Barb is determined to collect the unique string that each nation has and wind it up in her own guitar. Once she gets her ax wound with all six strings, any sense of individuality or culture other than heavy metal, will be gone.
Poppy and Branch set out to dissuade Barb from her conquest, but they discover that the other lands where trolls live view her or any other outsider with suspicion. Delta Dawn (Kelly Clarkson) who leads where country is heard, locks them in jail, and the king and queen of funk (Mary J. Blige and who else but George Clinton?) and understandably upset at how other trolls have pilfered their distinctive beats.
Oh, and along the way, Branch has to finally admit to Poppy that he loves her. It seems that every troll on the planet can see the connection before he and Poppy can.
With its nods to the problems of cultural appropriation, the limitations of genre and the unmitigated evil of smooth jazz (from Louis Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald and Miles Davis to this?), primary director Walt Dohrn and an army of screenwriters finds a series of clever ways to explore why people don’t always get along and how we still have much to learn from each other.
It’s tough material for some grownups to handle, but Dohrn and company manage to make the conceit accessible without pummeling viewers to the beat. Anyone who has every hear Willie Nelson master a Django Reinhardt tune or Run DMC effortlessly join forces with Aerosmith knows seeming mismatches can be magical.
There’s a lot of world to cover in 90 minutes, and it’s a little baffling why the film recruits familiar voice talent for some roles that barely register. Because his voice is buried in Autotune, what’s the point of casting Kunal Nayyar when just about anyone else’s voice can be tweaked for the sound? Christopher Mintz-Plasse and Zooey Deschanel can be heard on the soundtrack. If you step out of the room for a second, you’ll miss them.
The screen is loaded with bright gaudy colors, and the medleys that dominate the soundtrack generally work. Sam Rockwell seems to enjoy himself as a troll with a centaur’s build who helps Poppy learn there’s more to ruling than simply having big parties. The Oscar-winner gets more room to stretch than his castmates do, and the film might have been stronger if other performers got to do the same.
Then again, having a new generation get exposed to a Scorpions song isn’t a bad thing, either.