Ironically, trolls in the latest DreamWorks Animation film are nothing like their real-life obnoxious internet counterparts. The cute creatures with up-combed hair in different hues are based on Danish dolls created in the 1960s which became popular in the US, UK as good luck charms.
In this 2016 film, these trolls live in their happy candyfloss land, singing, dancing and celebrating the “there is always a bright side of life”. They wear wristwatch-like contraptions that gleam and tinkle at regular intervals, reminding them that it's time to hug—an act that energises them collectively. No troll can ever be sarcastic, angry, or sad. And that is why they are much in demand. By the Bergens who hunt them. Forget the concept of 'cute aggression', these large ugly creatures from the neighbouring village who live in constant gloom and doom, believe the only way to be happy in life is to literally eat a troll. Their king has even instituted an annual day called Trollistice.
Thus unfold the adventures between the hunted and hunter: chasing, hiding, escaping... Troll King Peppy, with his slogan, 'no troll left behind', risks his own life and manages to whisk his people to safety on one such Trollistice occasion. For the next 20 years, life is one big party. Till one day, their party gets busted and several members find themselves captured by the evil banished Chef (Christine Barankski). Peppy's daughter Poppy (Anna Kendrick) launches a mission with a grumpy Branch (Justin Timberlake), her exact opposite, to rescue their friends and bring them back. And so begins the challenging ride, both collectively and individually, to find the missing trolls. Poppy and the gang rope in Bridget, the scullery maid in the Bergen's kingdom in love with the prince, in the rescue mission and Bergens' predatory hunt for happiness outside, teaches them to dance to the music inside themselves.
We have all known (or heard of) the 'Bergens' in real life—people who suck out happiness from others, with rarely a kind word to offer—and 'Trolls' who bring in sunshine wherever they go. Parallel to the 2015 Pixar animation, Inside Out which was about the wisdom of sadness, Trolls is about not seeking happiness outside. Using the metaphor of how the Bergens need to eat a troll to feel happy, the film's message is 'happiness is inside of everyone, at times we need someone to help us find it'.
The film is crisply edited, at 93 minutes. The happiness manifestations of the Trippy Trolls aren't simple splashes of bright colours but border on the psychedelic, especially the creatures in the wild—caterpillars, flowers, spiders. You might even wonder at the reference of Poppy's name, Creek (rhymes with creep, perhaps?) voiced by Russell Brand is a yogic character (spare us the stereotypes!), as he mouths a long “(c)om-b” while smoothing his hair, but ultimately ends up being the troll who sells his soul and literally burns in hell.
Watch out for Peppy singing Simon and Garfunkel's 'the sound of silence' to the surly, sarcastic, 'hyper prepared for any crisis' Branch, as he finds his way back, and in a surprise move, him tutoring Bridget on romancing the prince. The film doesn't end with the good guys killing the bad but the bad finding their good. Trolls is a one-time, fun, breezy ride, worth the price of admission.
Director: Mike Mitchell, Walt Dohrn
Cast: Anna Kendrick, Justin Timberlake, Zooey Deschanel