10 Things Parents Should Know About ‘Trolls’

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All the Trolls are ridiculously happy, except for Branch. Image: DreamWorks Animation LLC
All the Trolls are ridiculously happy, except for Branch. Image: DreamWorks

With Trolls, DreamWorks brings us another family friendly animated feature, this time based on those cute troll dolls that were popular in the 1990s.

1. What’s it about?

Years ago the fun-loving Trolls escaped captivity from the Troll-eating Bergens, and established a safe village where they basically, sing, dance, scrapbook and hug all day.

Princess Poppy, heir to the Troll throne, throws a huge party to celebrate the anniversary of their escape, despite warnings from Branch, the one dour-minded Troll who lives in constant fear of the Bergens’ return. Unfortunately, Branch’s fears turn out to be quite justified, and now Poppy must try to enlist his help to rescue her captured friends and save all the Trolls from danger.

2. What is the movie rated and why?

The film’s PG rating is probably mostly due to the fact that the Bergens spend much of their time expressing their desire to eat the Trolls.

There is some body humor, like one character that farts glitter. Yes, you read that right. Farts. Glitter.

3.Will the kids like it?

Oh dear, yes.

The movie is super-cute and fun and my nine year old daughter loved it. This film might as well have been written for her. Some of the younger kids in the front of the theater could not keep from dancing during the musical scenes.

Even my 12 year old son, who usually roots for the bad guys and likes to put on a stoic front admitted it was a fun movie. He was smiling and laughing all through the movie, and never bored.

Of course he liked the sour-pussed Branch the best. He fell short of siding with the Troll-eating Bergens.

Poppy’s enthusiasm is nearly unstoppable. Branch is a grump, but he has his reasons. Images: DreamWorks

4. Will I like it?

I suppose it depends on how much glitter you can stand. There is a LOT of glitter.

Trolls lacks any of the in-jokes aimed at adult viewers that DreamWorks has done so well in films like Shrek, Madagascar, and Kung Fu Panda.

Despite the overwhelming positivity of the Trolls, the film doesn’t sink into mindless sap. Watching how Poppy’s enthusiasm interacts with Branch’s pessimism is the point of the film. The contrast between how the Trolls celebrate everything while the Bergens don’t believe they can be happy is central to the story. I found it generally funny and sometimes touching.

My wife was a bit more critical. “Saccharine does not cover the sickening sweetness of this movie,” she said. “The only character I could relate to was the grumpy anti-hero who hated glitter and was a paranoid prepper. He was the only one with common sense and the ability to plan ahead.” Still, I looked over at her during the film and caught her smiling plenty of times. So take her criticism with a grain of salt.

5. Are there any voices I might recognize?

Tons. Poppy is voiced by Anna Kendrick, who’s singing talent you might recognize from Into the Woods and the Perfect Pitch movies. Justin Timberlake is the voice behind Branch, and when he finally does sing (yes, of course he does), his vocal talents shine through.

One of the main Bergen characters, Bridget the scullery maid, is very humorously voiced by Zooey Deschanel. You might recognize the voice of the Bergen’s King Gristle as Christopher Mintz-Plasse, who also portrayed Fishlegs in How to Train Your Dragon. Russell Brand voices Creek, a Troll guru who floats around while dispersing yogic wisdom.

Christine Baranski is satisfyingly awful as Chef, the main villain. King Gristle Sr. is wonderfully underplayed by John Cleese. Jeffrey Tambor voices the Troll king Peppy. Gwen Stefani has a relatively small role as DJ Suki.

6. When’s a good time to go to the bathroom?

Honestly, the plot is not hard to follow. I’m sure you’ll catch up if you miss a few minutes during one of the frequent song and dance numbers.

7. How’s the Music?

The soundtrack was largely produced by Justin Timberlake, and features great musical performances by many of the actors. The lead single, Can’t Stop the Feeling!, reached the top of the music charts, won a Hollywood Song Award, and was nominated for a Teen Choice Award. The whole soundtrack was well-received, and is available on iTunes.

One of many musical interludes. Image: DreamWorks

8. How’s the animation?

They definitely figured out how to animate Troll hair. The imagery is vibrant, with the soft and fluffy feel of Troll hair worked throughout the movie in the felt-like textures of the world. I wouldn’t say it is ground-breaking, but the animation style matches the tone of the movie perfectly.

9. Will my kids learn anything?

I think so. Despite the super-mega-happy attitude of the Trolls, the message of the movie is somewhat nuanced.

A positive outlook alone will not win the day; you can’t ignore reality. There may be very good reasons why someone with a bad attitude got that way; don’t assume they are just an irredeemable grouch. Not every person pushing positivism can be trusted.

Even the Bergens, monsters of the story, demonstrate some lessons in overcoming poor self-image and overcoming long-held cultural norms.

10. Should I stay for the credits?

There is no after-credit stinger, but there is a scene that plays during the credits. So you may want to wait for it.

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