November 7, 2016
I never really liked those odd-looking little dolls with wild colored hair which were very popular way back many years ago. After a long hiatus from the mainstream, here they are again actually headlining their own animated feature film by Dreamworks. When Justin Timberlake took one of his songs on the soundtrack flying straight up to Number 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 months before the film was released stateside, I knew I had to watch this even for the music alone.
It had already been twenty years since the singing, dancing and hugging little Trolls have escaped from the Bergens, ugly giant creatures who believed that the only way to feel happy is to eat a Troll. In a celebratory mood, fuchsia-haired Troll princess Poppy cooks up a grand party with loud music and bright lights that lit up the night sky. However, the banished Bergen Chef saw their merriment and crashed their party, taking with her a number of Trolls to feed her King Gristle Jr. Guilty, Poppy enlists the help of the gray, glum and ever paranoid Troll named Branch to help her rescue their friends.
The animation work made the Trolls quite adorable and delightful. The most striking animation special effects were reserved for the Troll hair and all the crazy stunts their hair can do. The textures and the colors of the hair (and everything else, honestly) were all so striking and attractive, especially with those silvery glitter effects.
The script by Jonathan Aibel and Glenn Berger was not exactly original in terms of the story elements, many of which were a hodgepodge from previous kiddie films, like "The Smurfs" or "Frozen". However, the message of selflessness and happiness was told is such a vibrant and energetic manner that never became too cloying or annoying. I think the voices of the characters added a lot of goodwill to the Trolls.
Anna Kendrick, an actress I do not really like, gave Poppy such a genuinely enthusiastic, peppy yet kind voice. This may well be my most favorite Anna Kendrick performance ever. Justin Timberlake was so good in portraying Branch as a wet-towel in total contrast with Poppy's effusive positivity. When Branch was saying those romantic lines for Bridget to repeat, Timberlake was so heartfelt and charming. Zooey Dechanel gave scullery maid Bridget such a gentle and heart-warming vocal quality, you could not help but empathize with her plight. With Christine Baransky and Russel Brand voicing certain characters, you'd really expect they were up to no good.
However, for me, the aspect that I loved the most about this film is its pop music soundtrack. The chosen songs (mostly from the 1980s) were such happy surprises for me. I could not help but sing along. Kendrick's version of Simon and Garfunkel's "Sounds of Silence," Dechanel's version of Lionel Richie's "Hello" and Timberlake & Kendrick's duet version of Cyndi Lauper's "True Colors" were clearly memorable standouts, so beautifully rendered. You will also hear "Celebration," "I'm Coming Out," "Total Eclipse of the Heart" and "September" somewhere in there to keep things chirpy.
Of course, the finale is that newest hit "Can't Stop the Feeling" by Justin Timberlake, incredibly his first No. 1 song in 9 years. The other lively and catchy new songs (with cheery titles like "Hair Up" and "Get Back Up Again") were rendered by Timberlake, Kendrick, along with James Corden and Gwen Stefani (who also voiced Trolls named Biggie and DJ Suki respectively). The feel-good vibe of this music is simply foot-stomping fun.
This is such a rare movie that really made me so overwhelmingly happy while watching it. I was smiling and laughing out loud from the first scene to the last (there is even an extra scene midway through the closing credits). Everything about this animated feature was done so right. It washed over me with such optimism overload and I loved how it felt. 9/10.