I’m “biast” (con): ugh not another toy movie
(what is this about? see my critic’s minifesto)
Might as well just give up and give in. Movies based on toys are here to stay. Lie back and think of, erm, Smurfs? (ewww) Hasbro is now a movie producer — learn how to cope with this fact. Next autumn, you will be dragged by the kids to see the big-screen animated reboot of My Little Pony. That’s right: you have a year to muster whatever resources you need to survive.
And now, brace yourself for Trolls. You remember those little good-luck dolls with the Don King hair and the creepy, vaguely fetal faces? (They were a faddy thing in the 1970s and again in the 90s. Like pet rocks. Oh god don’t let them make a pet rock movie…) Did you know they have a backstory? Well, actually, they didn’t until now. All the better to shove new troll dolls and assorted merch down your throat this Christmas, like a retail Inception: toy inspires movie inspires new toys. (DreamWorks Animation now hold the exclusive worldwide license to produce troll crap. And you better believe they are going to wield it like a weapon.)
Trolls could be worse: it’s not smart and sharp like The Lego Movie but it’s not Michael Bay’s–Transformers offensive, either. It’s not even quite Smurfs obnoxious, though that would require intense effort. It’s just sort of there, up on the screen, a 90-minute explosion of rainbow colors and cupcake poop (yes, really) and a ton of glitter and some felt scrapbooking with plastic safety scissors. It’s cute and sweet and will put you to sleep, like a diabetic coma, and then it will smack you awake with its relentlessly cheery vivid-pastel optimism, and more glitter. But toddlers will probably like it, maybe? There’s a boppy Justin Timberlake song they can bounce around to. You can’t make it stop, so go with it.
The trolls are all ridiculously happy even though they are, at any moment, likely to be eaten by the monstrous Bergens. (I don’t know why they’re called Bergens, except that trolls are a thing from Scandinavian mythology and Bergen is a city in Norway, except the Don King troll dolls originated in Denmark, but the Bergens do look more like traditional trolls, big blobby mean-faced — and mean-tempered — creatures. I’m so confused.) The only unhappy troll is Branch (the voice of, in a remarkable coincidence, Justin Timberlake: Runner Runner, Inside Llewyn Davis), a sort of extreme survivalist who is camou-colored, and has planned and stockpiled for the day when the Bergens come to eat them all (he has a bunker). When this day arrives, thanks to a loud troll dance party that gave away their secret-hiding-place village, troll leader Princess Poppy (the voice of Anna Kendrick: Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates, Pitch Perfect 2) enlists Branch in a mission to save everyone from being eaten.
Apparently the Bergens eat trolls because it’s the only thing that makes them happy. For this reason, it is difficult to see them as villains, because eating these trolls sounds like a good way to get rid of them, and if they literally poop cupcakes, they must taste incredibly delicious. And damned if Poppy’s plan doesn’t involve surreptitiously helping the awful Bergen King Gristle (the voice of Christopher Mintz-Plasse: Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising, How to Train Your Dragon 2) find another way to be happy! The movie’s chipper embrace of its bad guys as just poor misunderstood souls even as we cynical adults in the audience are thinking they’re really not so bad after all makes it tough to hate this movie. Which makes me want to hate it even more. Damn this movie for anticipating my bitter and world-weary response to it!
Also, it’s tough to hate Anna Kendrick, even as an annoying adorable pink princess. She’s just too awesome. And that Timberlake song is pretty catchy. Just give in already. *sigh*