The creators of the Trolls movie seem to have had two audiences in mind for their animated adventure: Children and people who use illicit substances. Let’s not mince words here; Trolls is a psychedelic, technicolor musical montage that plays as if specifically designed to accompany bong rips and handfuls of psilocybin. The kids will like it for much the same reason as stoners, because it is a continuous assault on the senses that is mildly pleasant as a sober adult and would only be endearing with a reduction of one’s faculties.
The story of Trolls isn’t much to write home about, as it is so basic that in any other film it would be an inexorable bore. The titular trolls once lived under the subjugation of a race of giants called the Bergens who would eat the trolls because they believed it was the only way for them to feel happiness. The trolls mount an escape, and 20 years later their princess, Poppy (Anna Kendrick), throws a celebration that is so recklessly loud and boisterous that it leads a Bergen right to them. When many of her people are captured and about to be eaten, she teams up with Branch (Justin Timberlake), a dour troll who has spent his life preparing for the inevitability of Bergen return and is decidedly unfriendly. As the two venture together, they discover that each has something to learn from the other and blah blah blah… You get the idea.
Kendrick and Timberlake give pretty good cartoonish performances to their troll avatars, but it’s fairly obvious that their presence in the film isn’t so much for their acting as it is their singing abilities. In this respect, the film is satisfying, featuring an original Timberlake song and a grab bag of other jukebox hits that are well arranged and performed, even if they don’t break the bounds of originality to really add much to the already bare-bones narrative.
No, the reason to see Trolls is entirely in the bizarre and colorful sequences that DreamWorks’ animation team have put together to accompany those musical tracks. The varied designs of the trolls themselves are purposely and extremely marketable as plush and loveable goofballs—from a four-legged troll whose neck is longer than the rest of his body, to a glittery auto-tuned troll who is perpetually covered in glitter, to a large troll who carries a squeaky worm around as a teddy bear. Even the villainous Bergens appear to be made of felt and are so ugly as to be sort of cute. But as the music plays, bizarre and wondrous wildlife appears to dance along, clouds grow limbs and ask for high fives, and rainbows sprout from the very steps people make in the ground.
The film’s comedy aims for the littlest of children, and the parents who are doomed to watch this film again and again certainly won’t find the humor especially witty. But if you consider the film as a disposable compilation of music videos and trippy effects, there’s a decent time to be had here, even if you are a sober adult who’s just looking for some mindless entertainment. Yet I anticipate that Trolls will find its cult audience in smoky dorm rooms in the coming years, long after the kids have moved on to the next popular flick. I guess that’s one way to bridge the generational gap.