Released: 17th September
Seen: 13th September (Advance Screening)
When we look back on 2020 in film (through the spaces between our fingers like one might watch a particularly gory horror movie) there will be one film that stands out as having changed cinema forever. That film will be Trolls World Tour, one of the first films to make the leap from a cinematic release to a VOD release that created a stand off between AMC theatres and Universal that ended with Universal getting to put their films on VOD a lot sooner than they ever had been able to before and AMC gets to maybe show James Bond movies if we ever put big blockbusters out again. This film hit VOD in April… oh wait, I’m sorry, it hit VOD in the USA back in April but because of reasons, I had to wait until it came out in an Australian cinema in the middle of September in order to see it. Seriously, this kind of gap is dumb at the best of times but during a pandemic? ANYWAY
Trolls World Tour picks up with the trolls from the last movie living their best life, led by Queen Poppy (Anna Kendrick) and Branch (Justin Timberlake) who spend their days singing Cindi Lauper covers and giving birth to glitter babies. In general it’s just a joyful existence until they learn of another group of trolls who only play rock music are coming. The rock music trolls, led by Queen Barb (Rachel Bloom) plan on getting the 6 magic strings, one can be found in every Troll land, and using their combined power to make everyone come together under one music, ROCK!… so, Barb’s a fascist.
Yes, this film has the villain going full Thanos and embraces Rock music as the music of fascism and it doesn’t just stop there. On the surface, Trolls World Tour is a bright colourful musical about little creatures who sing cover versions of songs that you heard on some classic pop music station. Underneath it, it’s a film tackling concepts of cultural appropriation, fascism and how history is written by the winners who paint their actions as noble. Not even a joke, those are all in this bright colourful film that also features a lot of jokes about butts.
Barb as the fascist rockstar wanting to take over the world with her music is a particularly incredible idea because she doesn’t think what she’s doing is that bad, she thinks her music is superior to everyone else and that they’d all be happier if they just played her kind of music… which leads to a form of genocide when she basically destroys the homes and habitat of anyone who defies her. Considering that, historically, rock music is often the music of those fighting against fascism it’s kind of a fun subversion to have this rock cult be the fascists for a change… oh, and then there’s a moment where she accidentally gives someone a haircut with a chainsaw, and that was funny.
They also tackle one of the heavier subjects of them all, when a pair of Funk trolls (Played by George Clinton and Mary J. Blige) drop a bombshell revelation that the reason the 6 strings had to be separated in the first place was because the pop trolls tried to do some musical fascism and when the pop trolls wrote about it in the history books they made themselves look as good as possible… now, this doesn’t really impact the plot, but the fact that a kids film is willing to tackle a concept like “Hey, maybe the history books need to be looked at because they might’ve been written with a bias” is kind of amazing. This film does that quite a lot, in between scenes where Branch gets his butt bitten.
Most of the film pulls you in with the bright colourful imagery, some of which is genuinely beautiful and brilliant (and also some strobe lights, which can eat all of the poop) and then sneaks in some very heavy topics that are important for growing kids to learn. Sure they can sit there and enjoy the pop cover medley, but they’re also going to learn about questioning history taught by those who came out on top so it’s a good thing either way.
Also, just as a more general observation, the wild amount of assorted animation styles this film uses really makes it quite a treat. I may make fun of some films for just being bright moving colours to keep stupid kids entertained, but this one actually puts in the effort to have some meat behind the bright colours. Does that mean it’s consistently entertaining? No, some of the musical numbers don’t quite work and this idea lends itself to doing some fun mashups but never really takes the chance on doing them. We get a lot of pop music and rock music since those are the ones by our leads but the other genres maybe get one song, or even just a couple of notes when there was time for a lot more.
On the whole Trolls is a good movie for little kids that’s got enough substance that it won’t rot their brains. It’s sweet, but not sickeningly so and if nothing else now maybe the kids won’t be upset when they hear you playing Barracuda around the house cos they can associate it with the bright fun Trolls movie. Just remember that there’s a bit of strobing right at the beginning of the film (which is why, despite my praise, it’s getting a good score instead of a great one because I do not reward films that stupidly do that kind of crap)