In the world we’re living in right now numerous studios have taken to rescheduling their major releases to late 2020 or even next year, but some have decided instead to move their less significant projects to streaming. One of the biggest such titles is DreamWorks’ newest animated film “Trolls World Tour” the second film in the still-young animated franchise based on the once-popular colorfully haired dolls. It’s a pretty risky move in a way given the over $90 million budget for the sequel that could either completely change the landscape for theatrical releases in the future or result in nothing but loses for DreamWorks in the end. Regardless it’s a release many have apparently been looking forward to and one we could definitely use to add some family friendly flair to these unsure times. Is “Trolls World Tour” worth the $20 rental price? Let’s find out. This is my review of “Trolls World Tour”.
Presented as a jukebox musical like the prior film, “World Tour” takes the musical element to a new level by establishing an entire premise focused on the idea of music as a cultural element. Anna Kendrick and Justin Timberlake return as Poppy and Branch who discover that the world is actually made up of several different Troll societies each obsessed with a different style of music, there’s being pop and others including rock, classical, funk, techno, and country. When Queen Barb of the Rock Trolls decides to steal the musical strings of each culture and put them together to rule over all Trolls Poppy and Branch set out to stop her with friends new and old by their side. What results is actually a pretty charming adventure, one I’d argue is much more enjoyable than the previous film. While the first movie was a musical, this film goes all out with that theme by using the idea of musical taste as a metaphor for cultural unity and tolerance as all the Troll societies have separated themselves seeing the other musical styles as tasteless or inferior to their own. The theme teaches viewers, young and old, that it’s our differences that define us and unite us and that, in a lot of way, music and culture wouldn’t exist without a melding of ideas.
This is a huge step up from the previous film which was all bright colors and kid friendly atmosphere with a mix of themes that never really balanced each other out. Sure, there were life lessons put into the mix but for me the first movie never really felt like it established a solid purpose. It had several different ideas but never went all in with any of them. This time around the filmmakers smartly doubled down on the most popular element of the first film and found a way to spin it to present a solid message. It maintains the bright and colorful atmosphere and the overly cheery writing that I found to be rather annoying in the first movie but this time it feels much more tolerable. Unlike it’s predecessor, “World Tour” doesn’t feel like it’s trying too hard which is a nice touch. A new director in Walt Dohrn and some new names joining the previous film’s writers helped make this second entry feel more focused. It really feels like DreamWorks finally found an identity for this franchise while maintaining the kid-friendly formula that helped make the previous entry such a big hit with families.
The soundtrack this time around also feel more lively and less annoying. I found myself genuinely smiling when classic songs from different genres were given the “Trolls” treatment. I thought it was fun, diverse, and catchy whether through new songs or classic remixes. Presenting different styles of music also allows young viewers to establish new tastes because, let’s face it this movie is could be the first time a lot of young viewers will be introduced to genres like country or classical. One element I really liked about the music was how almost every genre has a chance to shine and there’s an overarching message that music doesn’t always have to be upbeat and happy. It’s a way to share your emotions and to feel understood in more difficult times as well and can act as a defining element for personal identity. I do wish the film owned this idea a little bit more but it’s a nice touch in a franchise that previously felt like its main focus was pure pandering when it came to the soundtrack.
I did have some pretty simple problems with this film though. The pacing and story structure were either a little off or terribly predictable. In fact, I was immediately able to point out the trajectory this film would go in a lot of ways from the twists to the linear story itself. Most of it was pretty easy to predict making this a very by-the-book story. The animation is actually very good and the different worlds explored embrace art styles and imagery often associated with each genre which also allows viewers to better tell the difference in each Troll society. The problem there though is the close proximity of these worlds made it hard for me to ever believe these societies had never come across each other before. In fact the very idea of multiple Trolls societies contradicts a lot of the first film’s narrative especially when you realize it would have been pretty hard for the Pop Trolls to go through their previous adventure without crossing paths with at least one other Troll world. But I get it, this is a kid’s movie and it’s not meant to be overthought to that extent but it’s what I do. In the end it’s a predictable film with plot holes galore but it’s also delightfully funny fun, flashy and the time goes by fast. It’s not Pixar or “How to Train Your Dragon” but it’s an acceptable addition to DreamWorks more recent animated offerings and an upgrade from the previous effort.
“Trolls World Tour” is a perfectly fine animated family film. It’s clearly still meant to please younger audiences but older viewers with an open mind and who have managed to hold on to a lasting sense of childlike innocence will find something to appreciate. It maintains the colorful and child friendly elements of the first film but brings an arguable superior soundtrack to the table and a more focused concept to teach viewers the values of individualism and identity while also inspiring unity among differing tastes and cultures. I personally had a lot more fun with it than the first movie and could certainly tolerate seeing it again whereas the first film is nothing I ever need to experience a second time. In a world where things are so unsure and people need a little bit of color and inspiration in their lives, “Trolls World Tour”, while flawed, offers plenty of fun, optimism and heart to add some charming positivity to your quarantine life.