“Trolls: World Tour” feels like it’s been stitched together in everything from the aesthetic to the storyline. At times, this works in the film’s favor, but at others it does little more than weigh it down.
Directed by Walt Dohrn and David Smith, “Trolls: World Tour” is the sequel to the 2016 film “Trolls.” It’s one of the first films to be made available for digital home release — available for rental via Amazon, Vudu and on demand — at the same time as its theatrical release due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
As explained in the film, all music in the “Trolls” universe comes from six magic strings that each correspond to a certain genre — funk, pop, rock, techno, country and classical. The opening scene shows the Techno Trolls having a party that is soon interrupted by Queen Barb, a new character, and Rock Troll, played by Rachel Bloom, arriving to steal their string.
The audience is then reintroduced to the main characters of the first film, Queen Poppy and Branch — played by Anna Kendrick and Justin Timberlake — having a normal day in their forest before a message from Barb arrives. The duo set out on a quest to warn the other Trolls of Barb’s plot. Along the way, they’re joined by Biggie — played by James Corden — another returning character who accidentally tags along when he falls asleep on a stolen hot air balloon.
As the film’s title suggests, this mission takes our heroes far beyond the Bergentown and the wild areas of the previous film into a colorful world of “Trolls.” What is a simple plot on paper is then confused with the addition of subplots — Branch tries to confess his feelings for Poppy, and Barb sends bounty hunters after the heroes. Meanwhile, Cooper, the four-legged Troll from the first film played by Ron Funches, tries to find other Trolls who are like him. This subplot happens independently of what Poppy and Branch are doing.
While it’s a relief that the film doesn’t waste much time revisiting characters, settings or jokes from the previous film, what should be a buddy adventure like the last film is bogged down by superfluous elements. There are several moments where the viewer is left going, “Oh, alright. I guess this is happening now.” The end result is several scenes that go nowhere, too little time being spent in each of the various settings and character moments that feel unearned.
On the flip side, there are some moments that are so absurd they’re kind of amazing, like the scene where the main characters are attacked by a Smooth Jazz Troll, an absolute acid trip of a sequence with swirling colors and beach fantasy.
Like the plot, the soundtrack is a bit bloated, with several musical numbers that are clearly just there to be there. All the covers certainly sound nice, but it can be a little frustrating when a film that already has a lot going on stops to do another pop medley.
The film also takes its lore too seriously, which is unfortunate because said lore will unravel very quickly. For example, the film spends a lot of time building up the strings as the source of all music — explaining why the protagonists must stop Barb. It then introduces Trolls who specialize in genres that are represented by the strings, but also makes a joke about disco dying, implying that the strings aren’t actually necessary for each type of music to exist. This removes the tension for most of the movie of whether or not the various trolls will lose their strings.
The film’s patchwork aesthetic, however, is surprisingly endearing. The entire world looked like a giant quilt made by a preschool class. The visual designs of the different Trolls worked very well, allowing each group to look distinct and memorable with a unique color palette. The exception is the Pop Trolls, which are all different colors.
What’s more, Bloom as Queen Barb is an utter delight. She moves between malicious and desperate for approval brilliantly, and the scenes where she talks with the other Rock Trolls are some of the best. Bloom also rocks, pardon the pun, “Rock You Like a Hurricane” and “Crazy Train,” with her strong alto.
The other Troll leaders don’t get much screen time, but Kelly Clarkson as Delta Dawn, leader of the Country Trolls, steals the few scenes she’s in with her attitude and performance of “Born to Die.” The measured performances of King Quincy and Queen Essence of the Funk Trolls, played by George Clinton and Mary J. Blige respectively, cause them to come off as really wise and composed leaders, especially in comparison to the younger Poppy.
With the world on lockdown, whether you want something to entertain younger kids for an hour and a half or you and some friends feel like ragging on a movie for a bit, you could do worse than kicking back and watching “Trolls.”