Vague spoiler alert: In the universe of Trolls World Tour
, gumdrops play an important role. That feels more than a bit metaphorically appropriate, because the Trolls
movies are awash in candy-colored sweetness. It’s easy to understand why Universal Studios and DreamWorks Animation figured this would be a perfect movie to release directly to video-on-demand services on an Easter weekend, as a 90-minute respite for parents looking for something new to entertain the kids. If it dissolves the moment it’s consumed, what’s the harm?
As it happens, Trolls World Tour
might also be like a gumdrop in another sense: It could stick with you just a bit longer than you’re expecting. We’re returned to the world where Queen Poppy (Anna Kendrick) rules over happy, musical, frizzy-haired creatures, and Branch (Justin Timberlake) wishes he could express his affections for her. Then Poppy learns of the existence of other troll kingdoms, each focused around a different musical genre—and it appears that the queen of the Rock Trolls, Barb (Rachel Bloom) wants to assert the dominance of her people’s music. So Poppy and Branch set out on a quest, initially hoping they can all be one troll happy family, then simply hoping they can save themselves from Barb’s threat.
What follows is mostly fast-paced silliness, punctuated like the original film with plenty of jukebox-musical cover versions of familiar songs and a couple of originals (though nothing as infectious as the 2016 Trolls
’ “Can’t Stop the Feeling”). Also like the original, a lot of the appeal here comes from the uniquely tactile nature of the trolls’ world, full of fabric and cotton and the unspoken suggestion that these creatures really are playthings in a human world. The attempts to fill out this world with analogs to niche musical genres occasionally yield fun results—like a smooth jazz-playing bounty hunter (Jamie Dornan) who hypnotizes his prey with the power of his alto sax and his heart-shaped chest hair—the humor often feels fairly uninspired. If you’re not in on the in-jokes with the voice casting—most notably Parliament-Funkadelic’s George Clinton as the King of the Funk Trolls, whose world is a literal mothership—you might not find a lot to chuckle at.
But Trolls World Tour
gets a little ambitious with its thematic material, beyond what initially appears to be a simple parable about intolerance. As Poppy and Branch attempt to thwart Barb’s plans, there’s also material here that touches on cultural imperialism, and the notion that those who think of themselves as a story’s heroes might have their own historical house to get in order. The script doesn’t entirely seem to know what to do with these ideas, perhaps not wanting to dig too deeply into such thorny subject matter and sabotage the bouncy vibe. It’s still noteworthy, and maybe even praiseworthy, to find a family-friendly story willing to acknowledge the nuance between “we can all live together in harmony” and “you’re going to have to assimilate to make that possible.”
Lest I get too carried away, Trolls World Tour
is still a movie based on toys most notable for their crazy hair. Its lessons are coated in fuzz and glitter, allowing everything to go down easy as it showcases a cozy-looking universe and peppy, familiar tunes. If you want nothing more than 90 minutes of new frivolity for the kids, you’ve got it. And if you want something you can talk about for a little while beyond that—a gumdrop with just a little bite to it—well, you’ve got that, too.