tek's rating: ½

Trolls (PG)
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Caution: spoilers.

So... Troll dolls were popular in the 1960s, which was before my time, but their popularity resurged in other decades; I most associate them with the 1990s. And then in 2016, this movie came out (though I didn't see it until a year later; I wanted to see it before Trolls Holiday). It's full of really fun animation and music, great characters and a great story, and a pretty incredible emotional roller coaster. And about the music, I want to say that all the songs worked really well in their scenes, whether they were new renditions of old songs, or new songs written for the movie.

Anyway, the Trolls are a bunch of very colorful and perpetually happy little creatures who spend all their time singing, dancing, and hugging. And while their hair is wild to begin with, in this movie it can extend to incredible lengths and be used in incredible ways. But the Trolls do have one major problem in their otherwise blissful existence. There are creatures called Bergens (who are like giants to the Trolls, though I would say they're roughly human-sized, except that there apparently are no humans in the world of the film). Bergens are miserable all the time... and the only way they know of ever experiencing happiness is by eating Trolls. So once a year they have a holiday called "Trollstice" when all the Bergens do just that. But one year, the Trolls' king, Peppy, leads his people away from the tree where they all lived, and they find a place to make a new home for themselves, so that none of them would ever be eaten again. Meanwhile, their escape deprived the young Bergen prince, Gristle (voiced by Christopher Mintz-Plasse), of his chance to eat a Troll for the first time ever. So his father told him he'd never be happy. The king also blamed the royal chef (Christine Baranski) for the Trolls' escape, and banished her from the kingdom.

The story then flashes forward twenty years. At the start of the film, King Peppy had a baby daughter named Princess Poppy, who is now fully grown (voiced by Anna Kendrick) and soon to become Queen, upon her father's retirement. But first, in honor of the 20-year-anniversary of their escape from the Bergens, the Trolls have a huge party. The one Troll who isn't interested in singing or hugging or being happy is Branch (Justin Timberlake), who's constantly warning the others about Bergens coming to find them. Usually this is just paranoia on his part, but on the night of the loudest, craziest party ever, he turns out to be right. The exiled Chef finds the Trolls, and captures several of Poppy's closest friends. She takes them back to Bergen Town and presents them to Gristle, who is now king, and gets him to reinstate the long-defunct holiday of Trollstice. Meanwhile, Poppy sets out to find and rescue her friends. She tries to get Branch to join her in the mission, and while at first he refuses, it's not long before he catches up to her. And despite his dismal disposition, he proves to be an invaluable ally. (We also eventually learn why he's so unlike all the other Trolls, and it's a sad story, but I don't want to spoil it.)

Once they get to Bergen Town, they end up meeting a scullery maid named Bridget (Zooey Deschanel), who is treated very poorly by her boss, the newly reinstated Chef. She's also secretly in love with King Gristle, who doesn't even know her. (Though I thought it was subtly obvious even twenty years earlier, when they were both kids, that she had feelings for him even then.) Anyway, while trying to rescue her friends, Poppy realizes Bridget's secret, and comes up with a plan to help her get together with Gristle. Which rather predictably ends up proving that it's possible for Bergens to find happiness without eating Trolls, after all.

Well... as usual, I feel like I've said too much about the plot, while also leaving out a ton of details. Oh yeah, there is a lot going on in this movie that I have refrained from spoiling. So many things. Happy things, sad things, funny things, romantic things... this movie has pretty much all the feels. Of course, a lot of things about the movie reminded me of other things (from Tangled to Fraggle Rock to The Dark Crystal, and um... probably other things I've already forgotten being reminded of). But despite how many familiar concepts there are throughout the film, it definitely has its own unique personality, and lots of clever touches. And it's just practically impossible not to be happy when watching it. Also I should mention that there's a fun little mid-credits scene.

And I should say that, while I liked all the songs in the movie, one of the new ones, "Can't Stop the Feeling!" by Justin Timberlake, is something I downloaded probably a few months before the movie came out, so it was very familiar to me for more than a year before I actually saw the movie... but it's still as much an integral aspect of the movie as any of the other songs are in their respective scenes. (Which, perhaps ironically, makes it work in a similar way to the older songs that are incorporated into the movie.)

Followed by the TV special Trolls Holiday, and the Netflix series "Trolls: The Beat Goes On!" and there will eventually be a sequel film.


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