Trolls World Tour Review: Beautiful animation and ideas doesn’t make up for a lack of depth and creativity
When it became a commercial and audience favorite back in 2016, it was only a matter of time before Trolls got a sequel and one has finally come. Looking to expand on the Trolls world and touch on multiple genres of music, Trolls World Tour brings viewers of all ages on a whimsical, musical, and sadly mediocre journey.
The film catches viewers up with Poppy (voiced by Anna Kendrick) and Branch (voiced by Justin Timberlake) after they’ve saved their village and have garnered the love and respect of everyone around them. Now sitting on the throne as Queen, Poppy has a lot on her shoulders to be the best leader for her tribe and when she is given the news that there’re different tribes of Trolls that represent different genres of music, she sees an opportunity to prove herself in unifying all the tribes. However, the leader of the Rock trolls, Barb (voiced by Rachel Bloom), is looking to steal each of the tribes’ prized string that embodies their music in order to make Rock the most powerful music in all the land. So, Poppy and Branch must go on another adventure in order to save the Trolls and discover things about their tribe’s past that could change their outlooks forever.
Right from the first scene, you can instantly tell that the animation is beautifully stunning, unique, and creative. Each tribe having its own unique color scheme, character and environment designs, and even tone gives them their own identity that corresponds well with the genre their associated with. The animation translates all the emotions and thoughts viewers associate with different music genres. When the film delves into Barb’s flying Rock fortress, there’re these feelings of angst and raw power that booms from the environment and how other characters interact with one another. When we get a glimpse into the Funk tribes’ world though, there’s a friendliness about it that feels flashy and much more laid-back. The animation embraces these differences in each of the tribes and it gives viewers a colorful and deep animated experience that generally feels authentic to its concept.
The main idea of Poppy and Branch going an adventure and experiencing different kinds of music along the way was actually one of the things that interested me in this sequel. It’s a great concept that’s utilized well here as its themes about difference and music opinions is actually quite interesting. After learning the truth behind the six tribes separating, the film develops interesting thoughts about accepting difference. Most of the time, you hear phrases like “we’re all the same” or “we’re not that different,” but World Tour doesn’t fall into this cliché trap and expresses the complete opposite. Rather the film expresses the idea that being different is good and that it’s okay to like different things or be passionate about certain music as long as you don’t seek to convert or disregard those around you because of it. It’s a timely and universal message that’s unique in the way that its presented and could’ve been heavily effective if the film didn’t try to do too much in such a short time.
Often times, we’re barely introduced to or understand the different tribes, with Classical and Techno pretty much given one scene, and the film constantly tries to beat in its message when it doesn’t have to. Rather than have Poppy and Branch have real discussions with other tribes and actually try to understand their point of view, the film tries to move as such a vigorous pace and include so much that the message can be lost or underdeveloped because of how much the film is trying to do.
From a side-plot where Cooper (voiced by Ron Funches) goes on his own to find his true home to a pinky promise between Poppy and Biggie (voiced by James Corden) falling through, the film always seems like it’s setting up big things for characters that end up being unimportant and even irrelevant. The lack of depth for many side-characters also makes them come off more like stereotypes most of the time and it makes it hard to say that the film’s messages are actually as effective and meaningful as they want to be.
The humor rarely works either as a lot of the jokes are just cliché ones that have been told plenty of times. There’s a mirage joke, a Kenny G reference (which was kind of funny), unfunny dialogue, a joke about the “importance” of a pinky promise, and cute characters either turning vicious or doing something wacky. Overall, the film just kind of comes off as bland and like it’s trying too hard to eke out a laugh from viewers. The characters were also just kind of okay with their arcs plain to see and not all that special. The lesson Poppy learns doesn’t have a ton of emotional weight and all Branch does is pine for Poppy’s attention – which gets old fast. None of the other side characters make much of an impression and even Barb’s motivations are just ironic because of the historical context established – which the film goes over way too much.
The music is probably one of the more disappointing aspects of World Tour because the medley of genres and songs just come off as lazy instead of creative. There’re butchered versions of classic that pretty much just insert “Troll” in major parts, a finale song so on the nose it’s immediately annoying, and other songs that are just meant to fit the bill for the respective genre they belong in. There’s nothing to respect or reflect on with the music so it’s pretty much instantly forgettable. I will say that there’re some interesting moments, like a couple of the duets between Kendrick and Timberlake, and I have to kind of appreciate the film for touching on more recent sub-genres in music like Reggaeton and K-Pop. However, these small victories don’t outweigh the disappoints that come in World Tour just not being able to capitalize on its potential to create a creative and deep journey through music.
Trolls World Tour is ultimately a film that’s beautiful animation and strong concept isn’t matched by the lack of depth and weak storytelling present throughout. It certainly shows that it had the potential to deliver a strong story about music and accepting difference but is marred by how it falls back on clichés and stereotypes of music genres it wants to explore.