Danish toymaker Thomas Dam created Good Luck Trolls in 1959 for his daughter to help her to get over her fear of monsters. They had big eyes, crazy long colourful hair, large heads, short bodies and bare feet. In the film Trolls, directors Walt Dohrn and Mike Mitchell keep faithful to Dam’s original concept as they explore theme of happiness in a world that’s currently full of so much negativity, isolationist and xenophobic rhetoric.
The film’s narrative is a linear as one can get. The tiny happy tree-dwelling Trolls spend their days doing three things: hugging, dancing and singing. One day the Bergens, a joyless group of ogres, discover that they are able to feel happiness, albeit for a brief period, by eating them . Not wanting to overindulge the Bergen celebrates Trollstice once a year when their Chef (Christine Baranski) prepares the Trolls for eating. Despite being the head of a group of Trolls who escaped the clutches of their joyless foe, King Peppy (Jeffrey Tambor) finds his leadership taking a back seat to his daughter’s, Princess Poppy (Anna Kendrick), generation of party loving Trolls who have never known the terror that the Bergens bring.
Poppy and her friends indulge in loud colourful parties all year long despite the warning of Branch (Justin Timberlake), the only grumpy non-singing, dancing or hugging Troll in the group. Branch constantly see the potential impending arrival of the Bergen around every corner. When the now exiled Chef stumbles upon one of the Trolls’ parties, and abducts the princess’ friends, Poppy and Branch must put aside their difference as they embark on the quest to save their village.
Co-directors Mike Mitchell (Shrek Forever After) and Walt Dorn, who had prior writing and Art department work on Shrek 2 and Madagascar, produce a psychedelic musical ride full of bright colours that pop off the screen. Writers Jonathan Aibel and Glenn Berger, of Kung Fu Panda fame, successfully convey their message that outside forces are not the key to achieving personal happiness. Rather happiness is something that comes from within, and sometimes we need others to help us realize this.
Aiding the uplifting message and visuals is the film’s soundtrack. Justin Timberlake’s summer hit Can’t Stop the Feeling, which twas written for the film, occupies a key moment in the plot. Timberlake’ fellow cast members also get a chance to showcase their vocal chops. Anna Kendrick sings a determined Get Back Up Again as Poppy ventures into the forest, initially alone, and encounters danger. While Zooey Deschanel sings a sad and haunting version of Lionel Ritchie’s Hello to introduce Brigitte, the scullery maid who is in love with Bergen King Gristle (Christopher Mintz-Plasse).
Trolls is a family-friendly feature that will be loved by the younger set, don’t be surprised if they are singing the film’s song long after it ends, while offering enough nuggets to keep adults engaged as well. Though the film preaches the importance of finding happiness within, it is hard not to be in a good mood while watching Trolls.