[Screen It]


(2016) (voices of Anna Kendrick, Justin Timberlake) (PG)

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Computer-Animated Comedy/Musical: A pessimistic troll begrudgingly joins an optimistic troll to rescue others of their kind who've been taken by much larger beings that can only find happiness by eating trolls.
Trolls are small beings who live to sing, dance, and hug. Years ago, however, they found themselves in the sights of huge, unhappy beings known as Bergens who came to believe the only way they could be happy was to eat trolls. All of which eventually lead to a holiday known as Trollstis, an annual event coordinated by Chef (voice of CHRISTINE BARANSKI) who'd serve up captive trolls. But twenty years ago, King Peppy (voice of JEFFREY TAMBOR) lead an escape of his people, prompting the Bergen king to kick Chef out and everyone to fall into deeper depression.

The trolls now live in near unanimous happiness with the only dissenter being Branch (voice of JUSTIN TIMBERLAKE) who's positive the Bergens will find and capture them and begin Trollstis again. The King's daughter, Poppy (voice of ANNA KENDRICK), who's set to assume leadership of the trolls, doesn't believe any of that. Unfortunately for her and the rest of their kind, their loud celebration draws the attention of Chef who's been living as an outcast ever since. She manages to nab a number of them, including Poppy's favorite, Creek (voice of RUSSELL BRAND), and gets back into the good grace of the rest of the Bergens, including former prince turned King Gristle (voice of CHRISTOPHER MINTZ-PLASSE).

Poppy wants to mount a rescue mission, but her father and the rest of the trolls think it's too late for the others and therefore they should hide to protect the rest. Branch also isn't interested, at least initially, although he eventually gives in and the two set out to find the abducted trolls. And with Chef determined to serve them up, they might have an unlikely ally in Bridget (voice of ZOOEY DESCHANEL), her mistreated scullery maid who has a crush on King Gristle and is happy to get a makeover the kind only the trolls can deliver.

OUR TAKE: 6.5 out of 10
When I was growing up, the most advanced electronic toys consisted of electric football (that might as well have been called "Earthquake") and "Operation." I'm guessing I never became a doctor solely due to the inability to consistently remove the patient's funny bone using tweezers (I think) without touching the sides of the "incision" and thus setting off the buzzer. Either that or laughing at such "surgery," where I guess such silliness (and obvious lack of medical professionalism) managed to transfer over to another toy that in an indirect way also dealt with the body.

And those would be our trolls that always had us giggling over their shiny plastic bare bottoms. Beyond such scandalous material for kids (yes, one could make Barbie and G.I. Joe naked by removing their clothes, but they were supposed to be dressed), I remember never quite understanding the overall troll world (and fold out troll cave house) and what one was supposed to do with them. Maybe the bare butt thing simply had us perpetually distracted. Whatever the case, I do remember being entertained enough by them.

And perhaps that previous history with those toys from my early childhood helped factor into my positive assessment of their first full-length feature film that's appropriately and simply titled "Trolls." Yes, I imagine some cynical, stick in the mud critics will frown on the colorful flick that's fueled by a somewhat familiar storyline and filled with an assortment of songs old and new. But if one takes the film's message to heart -- that happiness is inside all of us and everyone just needs someone to help find it -- the 90-some minute movie goes down quite easily.

As do the trolls, apparently, as they slide down the gullets of the much larger and generally depressed and downtrodden Bergens who serve as the plot's antagonists. Yes, following in the footsteps of Grimm's fairy tales, some of our lovable titular characters do get eaten as these Bergen characters have been led to believe that they can only experience happiness by downing trolls during a once-a-year holiday known as Trollstis.

But the Troll leader manages to helm their escape, resulting in 24/7/365 gloom and doom for the Bergens (especially the heir apparent to the throne -- voiced by Christopher Mintz-Plasse -- who's yet to taste a troll and was so looking forward to it) and their head culinary expert on all things Trolls -- Chef (voiced by Christine Baranski) -- to be sent off into the wilderness as an outcast, vowing revenge on all who wronged her.

Twenty years later, the trolls all live in peace, love, and understanding, and want nothing more than to sing, dance and hug. That is, except for one pessimist (voiced by Justin Timberlake) who's certain the Bergens will one day return and resume their carnivorous holiday celebration. Of course, he ends up right, and the Troll princess (voice of Anna Kendrick) eventually convinces him to accompany her on a rescue mission.

Hijinks, peril, and natch, a number of familiar songs ensue and the little characters infiltrate the world of the biggies and enlist the aid of a mistreated scullery maid (voiced by Zooey Deschanel) to help them find those who were abducted and about to enter the cooking pot, all before it's too late.

Yes, all of that and more will likely play best -- and most consistently -- with very young viewers. But co-directors Mike Mitchell & Walt Dohrn and screenwriters Jonathan Aibel & Glenn Berger have put in enough "adult" material to keep parents and others amused and engaged, and the overall tone and pacing make the overall pic darn difficult to resist.

I'm fairly certain I had a grin on my mug more often than not (and no, that had nothing to do with the sight of a bare troll bottom that, yes, does make an obligatory appearance), and the musical numbers are entertaining and sometimes rather infectious to behold. As in most such studio offerings, the tech efforts -- revolving around the computer-animated imagery -- are top notch, which also holds true for all of the vocal work.

While viewer mileage, if you will, may vary with this offering, if you grew up with Trolls or just like brightly animated, lively and occasionally a bit dark (in terms of tone and peril) offerings featuring fun and funny characters and good tunes, you do far worse than spending an hour and a half with some wild-haired and occasionally bare-bottomed cartoon characters. "Trolls" rates as a 6.5 out of 10.

Reviewed October 22, 2016 / Posted November 4, 2016

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