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Trolls World Tour Finds Weight in All the Fuzz and Glitter

Image courtesy of Dreamworks

When it comes to Trolls, the exuberant animated musical hit from 2016, there is a lightness to it anyone can recognize both on the surface and on the inside. In case it’s been a while, ask any early childhood school teacher, especially the ones at home right now missing their doting students during virtual learning, and they will tell you glitter is virtually weightless and gets everywhere, not unlike the easy-to-replay movie itself. The fuzzy felt texture of Trolls’ predominant homemade scrapbook look isn’t much heavier. The kicker is they were the right materials and textures for the craft project in question.  

Adding more weight from the original movie’s message of finding internal happiness and not changing for others wouldn’t take much. With equal simplicity and symbolism, the felt of this dreamy universe for the sequel Trolls World Tour is upped to include heavy quilts, denim, leather, satin, velour, vinyl, and more. The multiplication of said textiles matches an appreciated boost in weightier themes. What is ready and primed to delight can also move body parts other than your hips and toes.

While the party goes on for Queen Poppy (Anna Kendrick), Branch (Justin Timberlake), and the rest of their popping partners in their forested funhouse, a mighty melodic menace is invading other realms. It is the electric scourge of rock music, an onslaught orchestrated by Queen Barb (Rachel Bloom). She seeks to capture the magical strings of each style of music and stamp out their artful individuality. Barb’s first conquest is the underwater Techno Trolls led by King Trollex (Anthony Ramos), leaving her mascara-ed gaze focused on the Classical, Funk, Country, and Pop strings next.

Queen Barb smiles and flaunts the rock hand gesture for her crowd of followers.
Image courtesy of Dreamworks

The naive Queen Poppy learns of this looming threat coming true and seeks to make Queen Barb her friend with a cutesy invitation. Meanwhile, the four-legged Cooper (Ron Funches) ventures to find his true origins amidst the chaos. Just as the pragmatic Branch warns, the combative rock ruler wants no such thing from Poppy, triggering a pursuit that sends the spunky squad visiting new places beyond their borders with saves, rescues, and dance breaks aplenty. 

From a topical character standpoint, there are many daft dwarves that hear only what they want to hear. They put too much trust into their own thoughts and interests without considering those same things of others, especially those they mean to care about. Good leaders and good friends, for that matter, listen. Stuff like this is on the nose, for sure, but welcome. 

Queen Poppy cheers on the direction she wants to go while Branch looks on in dismay,
Image courtesy of Dreamworks

Likely to much parental delight as they share a streaming couch with their tikes, Trolls World Tour spans the whole gamut of musical genres. For the littlest newbies, it’s a great way to learn new flavors. With clever wit and artistic design choices, the movie rightly pokes fun at each type’s images and fandoms within our collective entertainment consciousness. Rock might be made the “villain,” per se, but no genre is free from little digs at its strengths and weaknesses (like how Pop has ruined everything).

This journey into different musical motifs gave the Dreamworks Animation teams full creative opportunity to enlarge worlds with these new tactile tones. The work from Art Director Tim Lamb, Head of Character Look Andy Harbek, and Head of Environments Michael Trull deserves high praise. The results are stupendous with every inch of the frame draped in material detail that would take hours to appreciate every CGI thread. 

Like a good sequel should (even one to animated fluff), Trolls World Tour elevates stakes with its ambitious amusement to become an even bigger compilation tape than it already was. The talent, led by returning star and musical producer Justin Timberlake, is boosted further by the addition of genius Black Panther Oscar winner Ludwig Göransson as an additional producer and Rachel Bloom performing her own rock leads. Collaborations with Anna Kendrick, Anderson Paak, Icona Pop, Kelly Clarkson, Mary J. Blige, Dierks Bentley, and others power a musical energy that is boundless. That is precisely the blast audiences were hoping for. 

King Quincy and Queen Essence of the Funk Trolls sing together.
Image courtesy of Dreamworks.

The truest surprise of Trolls World Tour circles back to that notion of weight. Underneath all of the new fabric surfaces is a mass of glowing and beating hearts which, as we all should realize, is where all music starts in every literal and figurative fashion. The script, begun by the returning Trolls duo of Jonathan Aibel and Glenn Berger and freshened by the TV talent Elizabeth Tippet (Life in Pieces) and the A Dog’s Purpose/A Dog’s Journey team of Maya Forbes and Wallace Wolodarsky, is filled with cultural metaphors and excellent message of positivity and inclusion. The examples are as stout as they are sunny.  

Look no further than the delivered line of “denying our differences is denying the truth.” Differences do matter. We all can’t and don’t look and/or sound the same. Music is the storytelling vessel in Trolls World Tour, but people are the true target. All music should be saved, just as all people should as well. Who knew a Trolls movie would go there?

The big word the newly home-schooling parents and guardians can pull out of this movie and write on their imaginary blackboards is “harmony.” Real harmony takes different voices. Whether you take its musical definition of “a pleasant combination of different notes of music played at the same time” or its societal connotation of “living together peacefully rather than fighting or arguing,” Trolls World Tour screams and sings for calming and celebratory unity. Make that happen and put a pinky promise on that shhhh…ugar.

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Written by Don Shanahan

DON SHANAHAN is a Chicago-based and Rotten Tomatoes-approved film critic writing on his website "Every Movie Has a Lesson" and also on Medium.com for the MovieTime Guru publication. He is also weekly movie trends columnist and occasional podcast contributor for the "Feelin' Film" podcast. As an middle school educator by day, Don writes his movie reviews with life lessons in mind, from the serious to the farcical. He is a proud director and one of the founders of the Chicago Indie Critics and a member of the nationally-recognized Online Film Critics Society.

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