No matter what happens or where we go in life, Trolls World Tour will always live on as the answer to the trivia question, “What was the first major, wide-release Hollywood feature film to not debut in a movie theater?” Don’t cry for the cute and colorful sequel from Dreamworks Animation, though. At $20 a pop, the film has been setting all kinds of digital/on-demand records, including being the most pre-ordered title ever and having the biggest opening day.
And why shouldn’t it? After weeks of homeschooling your kids and suffering though daily Zoom-ified sales meetings, who among us wouldn’t like to just sit back on our own couch and get away for ninety minutes into a world where animated things poop cupcakes, and everything is set to an infectious pop beat? Trolls World Tour is, in fact, an undeniable good time (no matter your age) and eclipses the original film with a clever, well-thought-out story and a barrage of sight gags and one-liners, most of which actually stick their landing.
While our hero Poppy (Anna Kendrick) is settling into her new position as Queen of the Trolls, her best buddy Branch (Justin Timberlake) is growing tired of being friend-zoned but hasn’t yet got up the nerve to tell his lady how he feels. Before he can do anything, Poppy gets a note from Queen Barb (Rachel Bloom) over in Hard Rock Troll-land, inviting Poppy’s population to a party. This, naturally, sets Poppy’s part of the world a-flutter, having been completely unaware there were any other Trolls but them, ever. Years ago, though, it turns out the species splintered into six clans based on their musical styles: pop, rock, country, techno, funk, and classical. Now the villainous Barb wants to re-unite everyone—but only under the Hard Rock banner, which would destroy all other music. Cue Bloom’s riotous take on The Scorpions’ “Rock You Like a Hurricane”.
Poppy uncovers Barb’s scheme and sets out to help the other clans resist her, while at the same time Barb is crisscrossing the kingdom absorbing the other clans one-by-one, aided by bounty hunters she hired from several sub-clans, including K-Pop and the Yodelers. Of course, we’re all just headed to the inevitable ultra-mega final showdown between rock and pop, and what a trip it is getting there.
The screenplay by Trolls writers Jonathan Aibel and Glenn Berger (and three others) is far more inventive than you might expect—particularly given the fine-but-forgettable trifle the original film was. World Tour seamlessly blends a bunch of goofy gags for the kids alongside stuff that will land only with parents (Ozzy Osbourne’s cameo as Barb’s incoherent rock-n-roll daddy, for example), which helps the flick come off as tightly produced as a Top 40 record.
Director Walt Dohrn keeps the pace zipping along the whole way through, and though bits may be just a titch too hyper-kinetic for the AARP crowd, little ones will see this as an absolute blast of a toe-tapper. It may have been designed for a big screen, and the rainbow-tastic visuals definitely deserve the darkened theater treatment, but this is the world we live in right now, and Trolls World Tour may just be music to your ears… and eyes.