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First of all, SPOILER ALERT! You probably already figured that, but just in case you haven’t seen DreamWorks's Trolls yet and want to, you have been warned.
Now with the release of the latest star-studded animated comedy from DreamWorks, I have been forced to rethink the recent string of children’s movies that are far from “PG.” I have been begged over and over by my niece to watch Trolls seemingly one hundred times now. Based on the popular doll toy fad of the 1990s, Trolls follows a cute troll princess in her quest to save her people from an invasion of troll-eating Bergen.
It sounds like the kind of movie I hate.
Allow me to clarify. I don’t hate the blatant nostalgia it represents for adults. I don’t entirely hate the catchy Justin Timberlake and Anna Kendrick songs that have been monopolizing the airwaves of my sister’s car. I don’t even hate the concept of making movies out of children’s toy lines.
No, what bothers me is the overall tone conveyed by the film’s trailer and extensive marketing it received. A whole celebrity cast only adds to this problem, although I love the actors/actresses individually. It seems to depend solely on wide-eyed cutesiness, the shallow jokes, and the excessive fight-for-your-right-to-party sentiment. It feels all too calculated, so carefully programmed to trigger an enthusiastic response from parents and children that should make us wonder what children are actually getting from the movies they watch. Furthermore, there are several plot points and instances that can make even the most lenient parent rethink their child’s movie habits.
Reason #1 - Bergen EAT the Trolls!
This is easily the biggest plot point I found disturbing. It’s no secret that the main characters, the Trolls, are hiding from or trying to escape from the mouth of Bergens for the majority of the film. What’s more, the Bergen eat them because the singing, dancing, hugging Trolls are the only thing that apparently brings them happiness? The Bergens gather every year for an event they call "Trollstice," where they would eat Trolls kept in a large cage and be happy. The Trolls happiness apparently transfers to the Bergen via digestion?
Not only does this not make much sense, but it’s also incredibly disturbing for me and undoubtedly some children. I was more often than not left wondering, “Wait. Did that really just happen?” Near-cannibalism is not something I particularly want my future children to watch, as both the “Trolls” and Bergen could both be described as troll-like creatures.
Reason #2 - The Glitter Fart
There’s not much to say about a troll farting glitter, except maybe WHY? It’s a children’s movie, I understand that, and cheap gags like this are a dime-a-dozen. Children laugh and movie tickets are sold. But we should be modeling for our children, through the books we read and movies we watch, that a more sophisticated humor can still be very enjoyable. We should not have to rely on farts made of whatever substance to get a laugh.
Reason #3 - The Trolls are always happy.
Now, there’s nothing wrong with optimism and happiness. We all deserve to find our inner troll, so to say. But it is impossible to exclude every bad feeling, every less-than-perfect emotion. The one troll that shows any sort of emotion, Branch, besides bubbly excitement is even ostracized from the rest.
He is seen as different and in need of an “attitude change” rather than being accepted, although he was the only one able to predict and prepare for a Bergen attack early on. Poppy and rest were more concerned with singing, scrapbooking, and hugging to pay attention to his very valid concerns.
One of the biggest things I was dissapointed in during the movie was that the Trolls seem to ignore the reality of their situation and live a fairly self-indulgent lifestyle that crushes individuality and empathy in favor of holding one never-ending party. Poppy reaches out to Branch eventually, but most of the other trolls ignore him and never ask him why he has such a negative outlook on life. We later find that he had a very good reason for his attitude. Additionally, the Trolls only help out the Bergen in the end, not because it’s nice to help out people who are sad, but as a matter of their own survival when they are about to be eaten.
If you have ever asked where happiness comes from, what a movie based on a child’s toy may look like, or simply wondered what a Kendrick/Timberlake duet of "True Colors" would sound like, then Trolls will answer these questions and more in between sandblasting you with manufactured joy.
Otherwise, this is one of those time-killers that's impossibly exuberant, mildly likable yet disturbing, and instantly forgettable for everyone over a certain age. It's just another movie my future children will not be provided with at home.