Trolls World Tour (2020) Review
BECAUSE YOU CAN’T HARMONIZE ALONE
Back in 2016, DreamWorks Animation released Trolls, a colorful and musically charged animated feature that was based off the Trolls dolls toy figures (created by Thomas Dam). Directed by Mike Mitchell and Walt Dohrn, the film, which starred the voices of Justin Timberlake, Anna Kendrick, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, and host of several other celebrity / musical talents, followed two trolls (Princess Poppy and Branch) who go on a quest to save their village from destruction by the Bergens, creatures who eat Trolls to be happy. Altogether, Trolls was received with generally positive reviews from both critics and moviegoers; praising the animated film for its visual style, voice talent performances, and catchy musical numbers, including the feature’s signature song “Can’t Stop the Feeling” by Justin Timberlake. In addition, Trolls grossed over $346 million at the box office against its $125 million production budget and received a nomination at Academy Award for Best Original song and won a Grammy Award for Best Song for Visual Media. The success of DreamWorks’s Trolls created several spin-off projects, including a 30-minute holiday special called Trolls Holiday as well as a 52-episode animated Netflix series titled Trolls: The Beat Goes On!. Now, three four years after the release of Trolls, DreamWorks Animation and director Walt Dohrn present the follow-up sequel film with the movie Trolls World Tour. Does this movie “rock” within its musically charged potential or is it a blaringly flashy sequel that doesn’t rise to the occasion?
Over time, Queen Poppy (Anna Kendrick) has been quite happy and content to rule the land of the Pop Trolls, with Branch (Justin Timberlake) waiting for the opportune chance to profess his love for the cheerfully monarch. Crashing the blissful peace and tranquility of their existence is Barb (Rachel Bloom), a member of the Rock Trolls who’s looking to acquire six magical guitar strings from the different tribes of the land, working her way through the Country Trolls, Techno Trolls, Funk Trolls, and Classical Trolls, showing little compassion or mercy for any alternative way of life that she’s disturbing. Embarking upon a “world tour” of domination in attempt to collect the strings and strum a might power chord to rule all, Barb is face with the determined (and chipper) ways of Poppy, who plans to stop the villain’s mission, as she is joined by Branch, Biggie (James Corden), and several others as they try to reach the lands first, with the queen trusting in the might of positivity to combat the looming darkness that is coming.
THE GOOD / THE BAD
With myself being a fan of animated motion pictures (as I’m sure many of you know that already), I was definitely curious to see Trolls when it first came out back in 2016. Granted, I felt that DreamWorks Animation was on a little bit of the downward slope with some of its more mediocre releases, especially when compared to other animated studios releases out there (i.e. Disney, Pixar, and Illumination Entertainment). Trolls was an interesting animated feature. Sure, it didn’t make a super splash at the box office as the film was simultaneously released on the same weekend as Hacksaw Ridge and Doctor Strange, but it was still able to manage to make a modest result at the box office and bring a little bit more new life into DreamWorks’s ambition for animated features. To me, I liked the movie. It wasn’t perfect and didn’t outshine anything that something like a Disney movie could conjure up, but it was still quite entertaining and simplistic to digest. It was bright and colorful in its animation style, solidly and well-casted in its casting of talented individuals, and melodically catchy within its various songs. Seriously, “Can’t Stop the Feeling” was permanently engrained in my memory (in a good way) as I kept on always singing / humming it for the next few months. Plus, I did like the film’s main themes and story beats (again, easy to digest, but always fundamental wholesome). I didn’t not catch the holiday special nor the Netflix TV series, but I did hear that they were adequately good as fun extensions of the original movie. In the end, Trolls wasn’t the “be-all-to-end-all” animated movies of children’s entertainment, but it was still fun, entertaining, and super infectious with its musical pop song numbers; a great distraction for kids (the younger viewers out there) and a good family friendly flick for all.
This brings me back to talking about the latest Trolls movie, Trolls World Tour. Of course, I was definitely interested in seeing this sequel, especially since a lot of the original voice talents from the first film were gonna be back in reprising their respective roles. Plus, as I mentioned above, Trolls was pretty lighthearted and fun to watch, so I was curious to see a sequel movie endeavors, with the hopes of the film retaining the same inherit lightheartedness and catchiness that the 2016 was able to achieve. I do remember hearing a little about this movie when it was first announced, but my real first impression of the sequel was when the film’s movie trailer dropped; showcasing the main plot, new characters, and old familiars. It definitely looked fun and creatively done, so I was quite keen on seeing where Trolls World Tour would ultimately play out. Thus, I was excited to see it. However, with the whole COVID-19 pandemic spreading, movie theaters began to close and movie studios started to shuffle around their planned film releases during this time, with Trolls World Tour being one of them. When it was announced that the movie was gonna be released online (on digital rental format), I took the chance to purchase it and to watch it from the comfort of my house….as well as to do this review for it. And what did I think of it? Well, I liked it. Like the first film, Trolls World Tour can’t outshine a Disney / Pixar endeavor, but still makes up for it with a colorful and zany world of fun characters, a positive message, and super catchy musical renditions of familiar songs. The sequel doesn’t creatively outshine its predecessor, but is a satisfying and entertaining extension of it.
Trolls World Tour is directed by Walt Dohrn, half of the director duo behind the first film, as well as being co-directed by David P. Smith, whose previous works mainly of a writer for project like The Powerpuff Girls, Dexter’s Laboratory, and Shark Tale. With Dohrn’s prior knowledge of working on the first film and Smith’s background in children’s animated endeavors, the two approach this sequel with the intent of not trying to outdo or overtake the first Trolls movie, but, more or less, trying to make a off-shoot successor of kinds; taking the film by expanding what was previously established. In this regard, both Dohrn and Smith succeed, shaping World Tour in a sense that compliments the first feature, but also doesn’t heavily rely on it. Don’t get me wrong, this sequel is definitely in the similar veins of the first Trolls feature, but Dohrn and Smith sort of do away with the whole conflict with the Bergens (two show up in a mid-credit Easter egg scene), with main conflict surrounding Barb searching for the missing musical strings from all the other music Trolls out there, with Poppy and Branch trying to stop her. In this facet, I kind of liked it as the movie’s narrative branched away from the first film and began to expand the movie’s colorful world and making the central conflict surrounding the different Trolls tribes of music and how they are different in appreciating music.
This, of course, comes back around to talking about the film’s central themes and message that World Tour presents. For starters, I did like the concept idea of different music genres for each Troll tribe (i.e classical, funk, techno, rock, pop, and country), which definitely showcases plenty of diverse characters and their background settings. This is immediately reflected upon in today’s world of liking different styles of music as it varies from person to person on what is considered good or bad (again, depending on the person’s taste). World Tour even digs a little bit into somewhat of the Zootopia mindset of thematic messaging (to a lesser degree), with Dohrn and Smith displaying how each person is different and should be accepted (embraced) for those creative individualisms. Like one character says in the movie “denying our difference is denying the truth of who we are”. That’s pretty deep for a movie that totes itself as not being too serious in its cartoon tale, but I quite enjoyed the feature’s message as it is universal theme that can be learned by all, especially in today’s world, and is easily presented for all ages to understand.
Also, the film’s humorous parts are quite fun and enjoyable. They aren’t exactly the most sharpest jokes and gags that have come across in a animated film, but they certainly put a smile on my face as I chuckled and laughed at most of them. Thus, I have feeling that the film’s targeted demographic audience will surely enjoy World Tour’s comedy. Plus, as a side-note, I did like how the movie addressed some of the smaller subgenres of music (i.e. smooth jazz, reggae, K-pop, etc.) in a fun way. Basically, if you liked the first movie, you’ll definitely like this sequel.
As for its presentation, World Tour is certainly a bright and vivid animated feature that carries the same type of colorful style that made its predecessor fun and appealing. With the help of the feature’s expansive world building, the film’s world (visually speaking) opens up, with plenty of new locations and places for us (the viewer) to see, which does help strengthen the movie’s appeal. In truth, World Tour is a eye-popping visual glitter extravaganza, with the feature utilizing its colorful animation in more detailed and intricate details than in the first movie, but still retain the same type of zany and creatively design characters and that matted / stitch work motifs and aspects that help make the feature’s fictitious world. Thus, I really do have to give credit to the film’s CG animation team for bringing a solidly animated feature to life as well as many of the other filmmaking team members that helped make the film excel in its presentation (i.e. art department, cinematography, and even Dohrn’s direction).
Of course, the film’s soundtrack is once again a highlight of feature, with World Tour boasting plenty of familiar musical numbers. While the first movie featured a plethora of catchy pop songs (new and old), the sequel showcases new ones from variety of different musical genres, which are great to listen throughout the movie. I kind of was a bit expected to see what songs were to be featured in the movie; all of which are fun and easily appealing to listen to. Thus, as to be expected, the film’s soundtrack is pretty good. In addition, just like “Can’t Stop the Feeling” was sort of the climax song at the end of the first film, World Tour does have one titled “Just Sing”, which, while melodically charged and catchy, doesn’t quite measure up to the more infectious song of Justin Timberlake’s iconic song. Also, the film’s score, which was composed by Theodore Shapiro, definitely hits its mark and delivers some pleasing background music composition pieces….be it loud and boisterous or soft and character dialogue driven moments.
Like the first Trolls, World Tour does have a few minor setbacks that keep the feature from its full potential or even simply overtaking the previous entry. For starters, the first Trolls movie was sufficient enough to stand on its alone merits (to a certain degree) as a sort of “one and done” endeavor. Meaning that the movie really didn’t needed to be expanded upon. So, World Tour just seems like a little bit unnecessary. Yes, the material is there, but it doesn’t really feel warranted to create another Trolls movie…. if you think about it. Of course, kids will definitely eat this movie up (without question), but the movie just doesn’t really creatively take any risk; keeping the feature quite straightforward and tackling several familiar beats and evening rehashing plot points from the first one. This goes back to the film’s script handling, which was penned by Jonathan Aibel, Glenn Berger, Maya Forbes, Wallace Woldarsky, and Elizabeth Tippet, which seems to miss its mark a few times. Naturally, this story being told (Poppy’s journey to stop Barb’s domination of Rock) is quite straightforward and easy to figure (again, this movie is meant for younger audiences), but I feel like the movie has the classic “too many cooks in the kitchen” syndrome with its script handling; finding the written story a little bit lopsided in a few areas, rushed in others, and just simply not enough. Given the themes and morals that the story wants to project and pass on to its viewers, there is plenty for World Tour to discuss, examine, and profess, but feels very limited / restricted in doing so, with the writers pushing and pulling the story that suffers from not being sufficient enough in substance as well as limiting its gaze within its narrative.
In conjunction with that idea, the movie doesn’t share familiar plot point beats as to what the first Trolls did, including a very similar ending that seems almost like a bit of a cop out in my opinion. It was work for the movie, but just seems like an easy way out. Plus, the movie sort of overtly simplifies everything and keeps on trying to bring up the main plot (several times mind you) in the beginning of the film, which gets a bit redundant. Plus, the characters in the film (both old and new) are a little bit on the skimp side of things. What’s presented gets the job done, but it I felt that most of them could’ve been easily expanded upon in various ways. This brings up my next point…. the runtime. World Tour is only 91 minutes (one hour and thirty-one minutes), which does sounds good as a animated feature, but the movie could’ve been expanded enough for at least another ten or fifteen minutes; expanding on ideas, places, concepts, and character built moments to bulk up the film. Thus, its combination of the writers handling the script as well as Dohrn / Smith’s direction for the movie. The end result of all this makes World Tour enjoyable and quite fanciful in its song and dance narrative of music and friendship, but comes up short in its staging of events, glossily substance (not going deep enough), or even taking strides to keep something more than its predecessor. This, of course, why the movie can’t overtake a Disney / Pixar movie (or even some of its better DreamWorks projects) let alone the first Trolls installment.
What’s easy to overlook some of the flaws is World Tour’s voice cast, which is quite spot-on and talented casted, with plenty of familiar voices returning to their post (from the first film), while new ones are brought on-board for the new characters in the movie. What the movie lacks in creating dynamically diverse characters development and maneuvering, their respective voices make up for it in their colorfully voices that certainly speak volumes to the characters; making them all endearing right from the get-go. Of course, the movie’s two main characters of Queen Poppy and Branch take centerstage in this new adventure, with actress Anna Kendrick and musical sensation / actor Justin Timberlake. Kendrick, known for her roles in the Pitch Perfect trilogy as well as A Simple Favor and Up in the Air, is still quite effective with her bubbly and up-beat sounding voice that perfectly mirrors Poppy’s optimistic personality, while Timberlake, known for his roles in In Time, Runner, Runner, and The Social Network, continues cultivates a more grounded a more sensible / reasonable voice in Branch. Plus, like before, it’s great strength that both Kendrick and Timberlake both know how to sing (definitely a good thing with a lot of singing is involved) as their vocal chemistry with each other is solid in making Poppy and Branch’s journey together for much of World Tour’s narrative quite endearing. In addition, old familiars side characters from the first movie return, with talk show host / actor James Corden (Into the Woods and Peter Rabbit) as Biggie, actor / writer Ron Funches (6 Underground and Harley Quinn) as Cooper, actor Kunal Nayyar (The Big Bang Theory and Ice Age: Continental Drift) as Guy Diamond, musicians Icona Pop as the fashion Pop Troll twins, Satin and Chenille, and Dohrn, reprising his various roles as the Pop Troll, Smidge, the anamorphic cloud guy (aka Cloud Guy), and Poppy’s father, King Peppy.
Like the first movie, World Tour features a plethora of celebrity talents to voice some of the side supporting characters. Of the new characters, Barb, the villainous main antagonist ruler of the Rock Trolls, provides the most memorable on-screen performance. Voiced by Rachel Bloom, known for her roles in Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, The Angry Birds Movie 2, and BoJack Horseman, is a fun addition; creating a hard-edge / punk rock voice for Barb that definitely has the right amount of goofy humor (for an animated baddie) and tough-as-nails antagonist that’s quite memorable in the movie. As a side-note, I did like how rock sensation Ozzy Osbourne was selected to the voice of Barb’s father / the former ruler of the Rock Trolls, King Thrash. Kind of wished they did more with him, but Ozzy’s mumbling sounds voice perfectly matched the character.
The rest of newcomers, including actor Sam Rockwell (Moon and Richard Jewell) as a Country Troll named Hickory, singer / actress Kelly Clarkson (Ugly Dolls and The Star) as the leader of the Country Trolls, Delta Dawn, actor Anthony Ramos (A Star is Born and Monsters and Men) as the ruler of the Techno Trolls, King Trollex, orchestral conductor Gustavo Dudamel as the leader of the Classical Trolls, Trollzart, singer / actress Ester Dean (Pitch Perfect and Rio) as a new Pop Troll member, Legsly, comedian actor Keenan Thompson (Good Burger and Saturday Night Live) as Guy Diamond’s son, Tiny Diamond, musician Anderson .Paak as Cooper’s long lost brother, Prince D, and musician singer, actor Jamie Dornan (Fifty Shades of Grey and Once Upon a Time) as the Smooth Jazz Troll, Chaz, and musician singers Mary J. Blige and George Clinton as the rulers of the Funk Trolls, Queen Essence and King Quincy respectfully, are solid in the roles. All of these characters (mostly minor) are collectively good due to the fact that the talents behind them elevate their animated on-screen counterparts to being memorable. Plus, their overall character designs are equally matched beautifully to the voices behind them.
Poppy and Branch set out to find the other musical Trolls and to stop Queen Barb of the Rock Trolls from unleashing unspeakable evil upon the land in the movie Trolls World Tour. Directors Walt Dohrn and David P. Smith’s latest film sets out to make a glitter ball explosion of singing, dancing, and wildly animated companion sequel to the original 2016 cartoon; exploring new lands, new characters, and a new conflict for Poppy and friends to encounter. While the movie doesn’t overtake the original film and does struggle in trying to find a proper narrative within its central conflict (story, characters, ideas, etc.), the film makes up for it with its brightly colored animation, humorous bits, catchy musical numbers, wholesome morals to learn, and talented character voices. To me, I liked this movie. Sure, it’s not the greatest animated film out there (can’t hold outshine projects from Disney or Pixar), but its definitely entertaining, easy to watch, and a good distraction to pass the time for the whole family, with a great message to learn from and to embrace. Thus, my recommendation for this movie is definite “recommended”, especially for the younger viewers out there (who will probably love this movie) as well as fans out there who liked the first movie. Will there be a third Trolls movie? It’s hard to say, but the choice to make one is foreseeable. I personally wouldn’t mind seeing a new one. Regardless if it doesn’t materialize, Trolls World Tour may not come deep within enough with its story or character revelations, but sure enough makes up for it in its color filled singing and animated silliness to be a glitter ball entertaining animated feature.
3.8 Out of 5 (Recommended)
Released On: April 10th, 2020
Reviewed On: April 12th, 2020
Trolls World Tour is 91 minutes long and is rated PG for some mild humor