Review: “Trolls World Tour”

2.5 out of 5 stars.

If you’re currently bored in isolation, one of Dreamworks Animation’s “Trolls” movies should jolt you out of your slumber—for better or for worse.  Forgoing a standard theatrical release and heading straight to home video due to the coronavirus pandemic, “Trolls World Tour”—the sequel to the 2016 hit “Trolls” that was based on, yes, the troll dolls—is here to provide families with a 90 minute escape from reality.  Unfortunately, that escape is louder, more energetic, and even more predictable than its predecessor.

“Trolls World Tour,” directed by Walt Dorhn, opens with Poppy (Anna Kendrick) still adjusting being queen of the pop trolls, while Branch (Justin Timberlake), no longer grumpy and difficult following the events of the first movie, struggles to get Poppy to listen to him and tell her he loves her.  But everything changes when Poppy receives a note from Barb (Rachel Bloom), the queen of the hard rock trolls, and learns from her father that there are other groups of trolls out there.  They split following a disagreement over which kind of music was best, with each group possessing a magical string that powers their form of music.  Barb wants to steal each group’s string so rock can take over the world, so Poppy, Branch, and Biggie (James Corden) and his pet worm Mr. Dinkles set out on a journey to stop Barb.

Queen Barb of the hard rock trolls (voiced by Rachel Bloom)

A large part of the story revolves around Poppy trying so far to prove that she’s a good queen that she doesn’t listen to others.  She also refuses to accept the other trolls’ differences, failing to understand that music is subjective and that just because she doesn’t like it, doesn’t mean it isn’t good.  Of course she learns this lesson by the end of the film, and it’s an important message to impart to kids.  But while the plot of this film actually has more substance than its predecessor, its conclusion feels inevitable before the story has even really gotten underway.  Much of the film follows Poppy and the gang as they travel to different lands inhabited by different trolls, all representing a different genre of music.  But there isn’t anything particularly inspired about this storyline or the presentation of the different characters and environments.  The country music trolls are half horse creatures that live in a desert town singing melancholy ballads led by Delta Dawn (Kelly Clarkson).  The funk trolls, led by King Quincy (George Clinton) and Queen Essence (Mary J. Blige), have a psychedelic home, while the techno trolls live in a pulsing, neon-filled party.  The hard rock trolls dress like goths and hate the bright color and kindness that radiates from someone like Poppy.  The animation is eye-popping and there are some nice character designs that distinguish some of the different trolls from each other, but overall the movie just feels like it is going through the motions.

Poppy (Anna Kendrick) and Branch (Justin Timberlake)

The music is also neither as good nor used as well within the context of the story as it was in the first film.  It seems like there are less original songs and more covers, and frequently, the music bombards you with its loudness.  It’s not all bad—a few of the songs are catchy—but it between the sights and the sounds the movie is sometimes sensory overload, and feels like it’s trying to over-compensate for a story that isn’t all there.

It’s not a terrible movie though.  “Trolls” created two compelling characters in the form of Poppy and Branch, and even though the fact that they are no longer polar opposites erases some of that conflict that the first movie had, they are still a lot of fun to watch in this sequel.  It’s also pretty funny, albeit in a weird way; like its predecessor, the best of its humor comes from its most random moments.

“Trolls World Tour” doesn’t manage to top the first movie, although they are quite different from each other.  Watching it is frequently like being on a sugar high: it’s bright, hyper, and fun for a little while, but you’re crashing hard by the end.  If you’re looking for a way to kill a bit of time with your family, it’s fine; just hope that your kids don’t ask you to play it on repeat.

Runtime: 90 minutes. Rated PG.

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