Originally on the weekend of April 10th, the latest James Bond movie No Time to Die was to be released in theatres. Due to unforeseen circumstances, it was then pushed to November and then Universal snatched up that prime Easter weekend slot with Trolls World Tour. Then the theatres all closed down but Trolls World Tour was still released on April 10th, this time on video on demand. It’s interesting to note that while some smaller movies scheduled for the next few months have taken to streaming, Artemis Foul to Disney Plus or My Spy to Amazon Prime, most other movies have been pushed back months or even a year for a future theatrical release.
Trolls World Tour is an outlier, it is a big budget animated family feature and a sequel to a movie that made 300+ million worldwide but kept the release date with premium on demand pricing. While this may be pricey compared to other rentals, 20 dollars for home viewing for 48 hours is cheaper than two tickets to see it once theatres. It’s an interesting test to keep new movie releases coming outside of streaming services. Although it seems not many studios may follow this as only Trolls World Tour is the only recently scheduled film getting this release. Which is a shame because this would be great way to see new movies instead of everything simply getting TBA or (hopefully) fall releases.
It helps that Trolls World Tour is fun for all ages, a jukebox musical animated film that dips into multiple genres featuring hip hop, iconic rock songs and country and more. Although the “bad guys” being hard rock afficionados makes them hard to hate because their music is badass. Tonally, the movie is at it’s best when it’s weird or cobbling together disparate musical influences. Sometimes, it strains for laughs but other times the gags are funny. It’s watchable and mostly entertaining as it tries to be all things to different audiences. While it is an oddity that the franchise is based upon Troll toys, ultimately Trolls World Tour is downright heartwarming.
Troll Queen Poppy (Anna Kendrick) is loving her life with the pop trolls and her friends Branch (Justin Timberlake) and Biggie (James Corden). But there is a larger world out there of troll lands with all different musical styles like classical, country, techno and more. However, threatening them are the hard rock trolls led by Queen Barb (Rachel Bloom) who wants to turn all trolls into just rock by taking away each kingdom’s distinct musical string. Now Poppy and friends try to unite the kingdoms, but the rock trolls are hunting them down.
There’s a bit of a convoluted backstory about the trolls ancestors who lived in harmony until they broke apart. Similar to Frozen 2, eventually the lead heroine her learns her ancestors actions aren’t as rosy as she thought with a darker history unveiled. There’s a meta-layer commentary when it is revealed that the pop music trolls tried to take over everything which is a nicely pointed reference to pop music overtaking mainstream airwaves as sub-genres splintered off.
The music dives into different genres, starting off with Poppy’s exuberant take on “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun”. Later when the rock trolls are attacking the classical trolls they arrive in their flying rock ships with Barb blaring Crazy Train by Ozzy Osbourne, which is great because Ozzy plays her father in the movie. He basically just mutters incoherently a bit and then hollers “Rock And Roll!” which is very Ozzy and amusingly weird he’s playing a doddering troll version of himself. Kendrick as Poppy is doing the perky, singing thing she has done in many Pitch Perfect movies beforehand as Timberlake’s Branch seems sidelined for most of the movie, however Timberlake has writing credits on lots of the songs. Corden as their sidekick buddy is upstaged by his fuzzy worm and there’s a singing cowboy troll voiced by Sam Rockwell who has an interesting twist. As Queen Barb, Bloom gives the most energetic performance as her character animation is very expressive.
Some of the best parts are when it gets inexplicably weird, like Biggie’s fuzzy worm companion who temporarily dies and goes to fuzzy worm heaven or disguising himself as a heavy metal singer. When Poppy and Branch run into a smooth jazz troll, it basically turns into an animated acid trip. The Western music troll land has a sad song called “Born to Die” by Kelly Clarkson that has trolls literally singing themselves into their coffins. The movie’s best gags are quick moments, like when one character on a side quest swaps his “Everything’s good” cap for his “Destiny” cap, or a random troll throwing himself into a pit of lava during a rock concert. The movie climaxes with a singalong, a standard play in animated musicals, however this has emotional depth as the characters are decolourized to black and white until singing brings back their vibrancy.
Trolls World Tour has a weird release history, ending up being a direct-to-video animated sequel that it wasn’t ever intended to be, so it has higher production values than most direct-to-video animated sequels. It has a lot of fun moments and catchy music and even if it sometimes skirts being irritating, it’s at it’s best when it’s strange and tuneful.
Trolls World Tour
Directors: Walt Dohrn, David P. Smith (co-director)
Starring: Anna Kendrick, Justin Timberlake and Rachel Bloom,