I’m a Grinch when it comes to spontaneous song-n-dance sequences in modern animated family films. Movies like Despicable Me will throw in a Bee Gees number without ever committing to being a musical in order to gain unearned jives from its audience. It’s cheap, but it makes me thankful when a film like DreamWorks’ Trolls gets it right.
These trolls sing and dance as much as we breathe and eat – it’s just in their nature. So when they unapologetically bust out a mash-up of Junior Senior’s Move Your Feet and Justice’s D.A.N.C.E., it feels natural. You can accuse the set-list of plucking from Now That’s What I Call Music 829 but the songs work in context. It’s fun and lively in the way animated musicals are meant to be, though remains a few steps behind George Miller’s masterful Happy Feet.
DreamWorks could have been more daring with their story and what it means to be happy, but settles for ‘Anyone can be happy!’ That’s fine, but considering the trolls’ happy-go-lucky recklessness got them into trouble to begin with (they throw an insanely loud party that attracts the attention of the hungry Bergens), it feels like more life lessons were left on the table.
The gags range from pop culture references to butts doing butt stuff. A repeating joke with James Corden’s troll never hits while the auto-tuned T-Pain troll is always – ALWAYS – funny.
The one thing that stays constantly great is the art direction. DreamWorks has taken that textile look from Little Big Planet / Kirby’s Epic Yarn and amplified it to the max, creating beasts from cotton and landscapes from Grandma’s knitted Christmas sweater. It’s obvious: this studio wants to do a Care Bears movie so bad, and I say give it to them.