My Chicago Bears stunk up Soldier Field on Sunday afternoon in losing to the Indianapolis Colts, putting me off football for the rest of the weekend. There is enough bad news in the world. Thus I did not care to watch the Monday Night contest(s). Instead, I resumed working my way through the extensive list of movies requested of The Legionnaire recently. Thanks to my sister, the next one up should have been The NeverEnding Story (1984), a childhood favorite of ours. But because the old man I live with has zero allegiances to . . . anything, but has taken to professional football recently for some reason, I decided to skip that one in favor of a choice that I knew would be difficult for him to stomach: Trolls World Tour. Am I not benevolent? So there I was, not watching Monday Night Football, but instead viewing the insanity that is Trolls World Tour in my room, by myself, on my iPad. Ah, the life of a film reviewer.
A half hour into Trolls World Tour, I tapped on the screen to see how much time was left until the end, and received a horrifying response: one hour more. To underscore how I was feeling from the get-go, in reviewing my notes from last night I noticed that I had asked the question, “Do trolls die?” Let me be clear, I was not wishing death on any of the characters. Honestly. Please, believe me. It is simply that I am a novice to Trolls lore, not having seen the 2016 movie of which Trolls World Tour is a sequel. Thus, naturally, one wants to know the basic physics of the fantastical land of these toys that were popular in, what, the 1990s? I am guessing these films were made in order to justify some Hollywood executive’s obsession. But I digress. In this latest animated feature, we pick back up with Queen Poppy (voiced by Anna Kendrick) as she continues her cloyingly sweet rule over the pop trolls. “Pop” in this case, by the way, refers to a music genre, and we also learn that there are other bands of trolls that are dedicated to different sounds. Yes, in the world of Trolls there are only six types of music: pop, rock, country, funk, classical, and techno. Yawn. From here the film devolves into a set of lazy stereotypes to describe how the trolls in each group behave. It is not important to detail them all. The important one is the rock trolls (which sounds more mystical now that I wrote it), who are eye-rollingly aggressive. They are led by Queen Barb (voiced by Rachel Bloom), who has decided that all other music is “LAME!” and sets out on a world tour . . . of conquest. Her goal is to take the strings that pertain to each genre and unite them so that she can turn every troll into a rock loving zombie. She does not go about her domination plot very brightly, though, sending a request ahead to the pop trolls, which Queen Poppy mistakes as a friend request. Thus she sets out with her best friend Branch (voiced by Justin Timberlake), and (for even more comic relief purposes, I guess) Biggie (voiced by James Corden), to find Queen Barb so that they can unite all the trolls in harmony. As she soon discovers when she comes to the land of the classical trolls, Queen Barb’s intentions are not altruistic. Blah, blah, blah. When the inevitable conclusion comes and Queen Barb has all six strings, Queen Poppy manages to trick Queen Barb into handing over the guitar housing the strings and ends up breaking it. The implication for a moment is that music has been broken thanks to her actions, and for a blessed moment the color saturation of the film is dialed down. But inevitably a few of the trolls start singing and everyone achieves the harmony they had so desperately sought. Roll credits.
I understand that Trolls World Tour is a children’s film and social issues are going to be reduced to their lowest common denominator, thus the horrendous stereotypes used to portray the trolls who belong to each music genre. As such, I will not much more time talking about stereotypes. Besides, there is such fertile ground with which to lambast this film in other ways. Where to even begin? How about the fact that apparently male trolls can give birth in this film? Putting aside gender-equality or LGTBQIA issues for a moment, science has not yet come up with a way for that to happen. Too controversial? Okay, so I know I said would move away from talking about stereotypes, but if you live in a rural part of the United States you should be insulted by this film. There is a scene where a country troll is born to a large family and goes immediately to work once it pops out. I mean, that is all you country bumpkins know, right? Numerous siblings and hard labor? Am I getting too political? What about the scene where the smooth jazz troll, Chaz (voiced by Jamie Dornan), finally catches up to Queen Poppy and Branch? For never explained reasons (I guess you do not need them in such films) his music causes the other trolls to trip balls. Oh, and let us not forget that Chaz is one of the bounty hunters hired by Queen Barb to track down Queen Poppy. Would that not suggest a darker side to the trolls where such a class of people was necessary? And how about the suggestion that pop music ruins everything because it “steals” sounds from other genres? There is a lazy criticism if I ever heard one. I will end my criticisms on a lighter note, though. There are two times where gumdrops jammed into the ears of trolls saves them from harm, only to be eaten as soon as they are removed. That. Is. Gross.
As irritated as I was with Trolls World Tour (and I did not even mention the thrashing of popular songs they kidnaped into this film, or the fact that they somehow got poor George Clinton to voice the King of Funk (which is true, of course) Quincy), I also must discuss its merits. Oddly enough, this works on a Faith level. The biggest message in the film is tolerance. It is repeated. And repeated. And repeated. And repeated. And repeated. I guess that is another criticism, sorry. Not to sound too cliché, but the Catholic Church has been one of the more tolerant institutions since its founding. To be clear, there have been some well defined things to which the Church strictly objects. Getting back to stereotypes for a moment, one of the biggest in today’s society seems to be that Catholics view people of alternative lifestyles as automatically going to hell, which is basically code for dividing people. Yes, the Church, as based on the Bible, states that certain actions are sinful. However, that is not where the story ends. First of all, there is the path of redemption that is available to anyone who chooses it. Also, we are taught to love sinners, if not to emulate their behavior. But really, that is it, to love people. Only God truly knows what is in the hearts of people, and whether or not they adhere to that principle. Thus when I say, as I do now, that I pray for sinners, know that it is out of love (I hope) that I do so. I think that it would be great if more people were Catholic, and to borrow from the film, that things would be more harmonious that way. Yet, as the world stands now, it is just an opportunity for His grace to abound.
I believe this might be a more serious review of Trolls World Tour than it deserves. I was quite thankful when it ended. If you have children who have seen this movie, I hope this review can help put its message in the proper perspective. It is not a morally objectionable movie. It is just lazy and ignorant.