⭐⭐⭐ averaged across 2 films.

tl;dr: The glee-filled pop-industry advertising campaign that somehow produced two decent kids movies.


Spoilers Ahead: My reviews are not spoiler-free. You have been warned.

I was extremely surprised when Trolls had a sequel release, and then even more so to see it was a massive lockdown hit. Maybe I'd been too quick to write this off as another Lego Movie clone cash-grab? Well, almost. In fairness, Trolls is a pretty competent kids movie. It's fun, has some decent humour, and a solid underlying message about empathy, friendship, and bullying. The team behind the now smash-hit series has also created a surprisingly original fantasy world, although the overall vibe of it being a child's imagination (scenery is made up of old bits of clothing and things like yoghurt pots; creatures feel like the kind of acid-dream critters kids doodle on the back of restaurant menus; and the world would slot into Yellow Submarine far more easily than most modern films) did leave me constantly wondering if they were about to cut out to two kids playing with actual Troll dolls in their bedroom, so it doesn't avoid Lego Movie comparisons entirely.

Luckily, though, that twist never came. Instead, we learn about the pop-loving, all-singing, all-dancing Trolls, and how they've spent aeons being farmed for a giant race of ogre-like creatures who can only feel happiness when brutally murdering their sentient cattle. It's a pretty dark setup, but as mentioned it does land on some interesting morales and pulls together fairly well.

Of course, the real reason that Trolls is such a breakout hit is that soundtrack, and I'd say it was done pretty well. Is it a clear vehicle for promoting the labels and artists associated with the film? Sure, but it's still a fun romp with some great songs, some decent animation, and enough originality to make the otherwise relatively cookie-cutter plot move along at a solid pace. Not bad at all.

Trolls World Tour

Spoilers Ahead: My reviews are not spoiler-free. You have been warned.

The first Trolls film had more originality than it needed, but at times that also just left it feeling a little disjointed. Why were some Trolls quadrupedal? Why were some made of glitter? How do they fit into their wider world? I mean, the answers to all of those things were either a) because it sold more toys or b) because the whole film was clearly vibing off children's imaginations so continuity wasn't really an issue (depending on how cynical you want to be 😉). Well, never fear, because here comes Trolls World Tour to answer all of those niggling questions (even if it does set up one massive new issue that's only partly addressed in the after-credits scene).

It turns out there are different clans of Trolls for each of the musical genres – though, take this with a pinch of salt, because that's an admittedly impossible thing to actually portray given music's constant evolution. To its credit, World Tour continues the series' trend of decent world-building, doing just enough to validate the plot whilst having a lot of fun with the new Troll designs, musical license, and general plot. The result is a little more paper-thin, but a lot more fun as viewer in some ways, and is just as jam-packed with music and morales as round one. The stakes, whilst technically higher, never quite feel as high as being eaten to extinction, but motivations are at least a little more reasonable.

That said, I found the complete repeat of character arcs from story one for Poppy and Branch a little irritating and felt like the main message being told about empathy was a little undercut by the fact that Poppy's self-centred, egotistical desire to do whatever she wants, her family and friends be damned, ultimately actually saved the day. In other words, once again she doesn't really learn anything and any morale that might have made its way through is shoved to the side by luck. It makes her a lot less of an interesting or likeable character, so hopefully they try something new in the inevitable sequel.

And, oh yeah, the new big issue? If the world is so filled with Trolls, why weren't the Bergens able to find more to farm/eat in the first film? And where were the Bergens in the sequel? Their species has gone from the big enemy to critically endangered, it seems! The post-credits meta gag doesn't really patch this plot hole, but it does at least acknowledge it, so fair enough (I guess).

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