In a season already overloaded with candy, #TrollsWorldTour (2020) offers a further opportunity to exceed your RDA of artificial colourings and synthetic sweetener.
The long-awaited follow-up to overachieving 2016 smash “Trolls” finally hits screens in controversial and reduced circumstances, becoming one of a handful of pioneer titles pushing the premium ‘home premiere’ format as cinemas around the world remain shuttered. So, more than ever, the question becomes is it worth the price of a ‘ticket’?
As Queen Barb of the Hard Rock Trolls commences her master plan by conquering the Techno Trolls, Queen Poppy of the Pop Music Trolls, delighted at the revelation that other types of Troll exist, sets out to unite the kingdoms as well. But Poppy and Barb have very different ideas of what unity means for Trollkind and the music they love.
There’s something of a disconnect between this sequel and its predecessor, one that you suspect the makers were relying on the four-year gap to help smooth over. In many ways, “Trolls World Tour” feels more like the third part of a trilogy but in the absence of a middle chapter helping to lighten the load, it has to introduce far too much mythology to allow any of it to be explored in any detail before the agenda-driven adventure takes over. The revelation of ‘other’ Troll tribes is fine, in and of itself, but the existence of these tribes’ territories abutting Poppy’s doesn’t make sense in the world the first film set up. Why didn’t the Bergens discover and devour them? A middle movie covering the discovery of these other Tribes and bringing them back to settle would have paved the way for this story of Queen Barb deciding to ‘Thanos’ things by seizing the six Infinity Stones Musical Strings to bend the world to her whim.
Thanks to the overstuffed exposition required, the things that made “Trolls” work so well get squeezed out. The musical numbers are truncated and underwhelming and far less aligned to the narrative. In fact, rather than helping to move the story forward, they more often bring things screeching to a halt while the film ticks another box on its musical quota. The song choices this time around feel arbitrary too, and despite Queen Barb constantly railing against Pop Music’s cloying habit of creating catchy earworms, the film offers none. You’d be hard-pressed to recall the songs featured and harder pressed to summon up any enthusiasm for the soundtrack album.
Kendrick does her best to pep things up but Timberlake’s Branch has little to do (despite an overt yet underdeveloped proposal plot) and is overshadowed by a welcome new character in Sam Rockwell’s Hickory and an unwelcome expanded role for James Corden’s one-note character Biggie. At least Ron Funches’ Cooper gets a little more development this time beyond pooping patisserie although his best moments – and many of the rest of the film’s – are given away in the trailer. It’s all just too scattergun and superficial in its storytelling, lacking the original’s strong through-line as Poppy taught the Bergens how to be happy and learned to believe in herself.
There are a bunch of celebrity cameos as the voices of various Troll factions (the Oscar for most obvious casting goes to Ozzy Osborne as the ageing patriarch of the Rock Trolls) but they’re all just flung at the screen and then moved on from, so the film can deliver its leadenly heavy-handed message. With so much exposition, there’s no room for subtlety or subtext, so the moral of the story: the importance of diversity, is simply made text. Not in some kind of polemic after school special style, admittedly, but without wit or humour either.
My tribe still enjoyed the movie well enough but afterwards, we realised just how much this sequel had been coasting on the residual affection we held for its predecessor. The steep rental fee will only cover you for 48 hours if you choose to go ahead and pay up but that shouldn’t be a problem – the only urge we had was to watch the first movie again and I can’t see that changing in the future.