trolls

Earlier this year, Justin Timberlake dropped his single “Can’t Stop The Feeling,” a summer jam contender that demanded to be liked by every man, soccer mom, and child with its happy-go-lucky message and irresistible groove. It insisted on its own mass appeal. (Personally speaking, I am in the camp of believers who argue that, while a fun piece of pop, it’s a blatant wannabe of Pharrell’s superior 2013 megahit “Happy.”)

Trolls, the latest animated creation (and toy adaptation) from a major movie studio, is just as persistent in its determination to make you to love it, dance to it, and inevitably buy merchandise based on it. And it makes sense that JT’s chart-topping single hails from the movie’s soundtrack, a collection full of family-friendly covers and mash-ups designed to send your middle-aged aunt to the nearest dance floor and shake her rump like it’s 90s (or 80s) again.

Timberlake is also one of the many famous names providing voices in the film. He plays Branch, a grouchy loner and the only Troll who isn’t perpetually happy like everyone else (because he’s – gasp – a realist!). But he’s merely the second lead to Anna Kendrick, who plays Princess Poppy, the daughter of King Peppy (Jeffrey Tambor), who once saved all the Trolls from being imprisoned by the Bergens, large, unhappy creatures who only feel temporary happiness when they eat a Troll. The unhappiest of them all is the Bergen king’s Chef (Christine Baranski), banished from Bergen Town after ruining Trollstice, the annual holiday feast during which all of the Trolls escaped. Twenty years later, the Chef stumbles upon the Trolls during a glitter-filled dance party (think: Trollchella), snatches up a bunch of them, and takes them back to the Bergen king in order to redeem herself (and cook them up for another feast). Naturally, it’s up to Princess Poppy to rescue her friends.

Cue the musical journey montage! Cue Poppy teaming up with grumpy glum Branch! Cue the offbeat side characters and visual gags that pop up along the way!

That said, if watching a movie about small colorful creatures that love to sing, dance, and hug all day long sounds worse than sticking toothpicks in your eyes, then this may not be your cup of tea. (And I assume you’re single and childless.)

If you’re a fan of Zooey Deschanel, then you’ll get a kick out of an adorable B-plot involving her character, a scullery maid named Bridget who befriends the Trolls after they give her makeover intended to help her win over her crush, the Bergen prince (Christopher Mintz-Plasse). Deschanel is easily the film’s MVVP (Most Valuable Vocal Player).

And if you’re a tired parent who would love nothing but a loud, shiny distraction for your kids on a Saturday afternoon, then shell over your hard-earned money for this 90-minute, saccharine-covered lesson in happiness.

Directed by Mike Mitchell from a so-cute-you-could-cuddle-with-it script by Jonathan Aibel and Glenn Berger, Trolls isn’t just another big-screen, mainstream offering for the holiday season. It’s one giant introduction to a franchise that is poised to consume every dollar from every parent in the world. Let’s face it: it has invested millions and millions of dollars in its arsenal of vivid art direction, charismatic celebrities, and jukebox musical numbers to do just that. In other words, Trolls hasn’t reinvented the animated feature whatsoever. It’s cute and all, but it will be a distant memory by New Year’s…or at least until the inevitable sequel hits theaters during another tentpole season.

But then again, it’s also a welcome jolt of sunshine (primarily for adults), especially in a year dragged down by depressing headlines and the most frustrating and divisive election in recent memory. You take what you can get.

RATING: 2.5/5