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With: Anna Kendrick, Justin Timberlake, Rachel Bloom, James Corden, Ron Funches, Kelly Clarkson, Anderson .Paak, Sam Rockwell, George Clinton, Mary J. Blige, Kenan Thompson, Kunal Nayyar, Caroline Hjelt, Aino Jawo, J Balvin, Flula Borg, Ester Dean, Jamie Dornan, Gustavo Dudamel, Ozzy Osbourne, Anthony Ramos, Karan Soni, Charlyne Yi, Da'Vine Joy Randolph (voices)
Written by: Jonathan Aibel, Glenn Berger, Maya Forbes, Wallace Wolodarsky, Elizabeth Tippet
Directed by: Walt Dohrn, David P. Smith
MPAA Rating: PG for some mild rude humor
Running Time: 90
Date: 04/10/2020

Trolls World Tour (2020)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Troll with the Flow

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

To be clear, I haven't seen Trolls (2016), which told the story of the cheerful Poppy (voiced by Anna Kendrick) and the grumpy Branch (voiced by Justin Timberlake) and a road trip they took to save the Troll community. Now, in the world of COVID-19, the sequel, Trolls World Tour, was released video-on-demand so that people sheltering at home could have the benefit of seeing it on the same day it was intended to be released in theaters. I can say for sure that this decision was a good one. Not only is Trolls World Tour a fun, colorful movie for families and kids, but it's also a perfect movie for our severely divided world.

So Poppy and Branch live among a community of "Pop" trolls, that thrive on mindless, cheerful pop music (such as "Girls Just Want to Have Fun" or "Who Let the Dogs Out?"). Poppy is now the queen and works hard to make everyone happy, while Branch is secretly in love with her and can't work up the courage to tell her.

Poppy learns that their tribe is only one of six "strings" that make up a much larger troll population. The other "strings" consist of Funk, Classical, Techno, Country, and Hard Rock. These communities were long ago separated because no one could agree on what kind of music was best. Now, the queen of Hard Rock, Barb (voiced by Rachel Bloom), has decided that she will unite all the different communities, but under her rule, and her choice of music. (The movie presents hard rock anthems like "Rock You Like a Hurricane" and "Crazy Train" as gentle Broadway remakes that wouldn't offend or upset a two year-old.) Barb sets out to steal all six strings.

Poppy and Branch, accompanied by overeating stowaway Biggie (voiced by James Corden) and his wormlike friend Mr. Dinkles, take a hot-air balloon to the other lands in an attempt to stop Barb. In Country music territory, the heroes meet the helpful Hickory (voiced by Sam Rockwell), who joins them on their quest. Meanwhile, Cooper (voiced by Ron Funches) sets out to find another tribe that looks more like he does, and Barb sends out more music types to stop Poppy, including Smooth Jazz, K-Pop, Reggaeton, and Yodelers. (When hit with Smooth Jazz, the heroes helplessly drift into a kind of gooey, hallucinogenic dream.)

My biggest quibble with Trolls World Tour is that some of the characters seem to be stamped out of templates already used in other animated movies. Barb in particular — her facial expressions and movements — reminded me, by turns, of Vanellope in Wreck-It-Ralph and Disgust in Inside Out. But for the most part, co-directors Walt Dohrn (also co-director of the original film) and David P. Smith (making his feature debut) keep the sequel bright and sparkly and, frankly, gorgeous like a rainbow or a garden in full bloom, and they wrap things up neatly at just 90 minutes without wearing us down.

It reminded me of the Lego Movie series, but not as winkingly self-aware, nor as screamingly funny. This one has a few chuckles, but it's more interested in clinging to a kind of fresh innocence and hope that smaller kids — and burnt-out adults — can get behind. In this movie, there are many different types of music, but all equally important. Rather than staying in separate little bubbles, fans of one kind of music can learn to appreciate other kinds, and everyone is in this big sound machine together.

Universal has released a Blu-ray of this unofficial movie of COVID-19 for July of 2020. True to the movie, it's full of flash and sparkle, with a vivid, colorful transfer, bold soundtrack, and lots of kid-friendly extras. Even if families already bought the digital version of the movie back in April, this one comes with the "Dance Party Version," which offers lyrics, dance steps, and special little bonus animations when you push the "enter" button at the right time. (The dance steps are taught in a separate bonus feature.) Other extras include a new short cartoon, Tiny Diamond Goes Back to School, a tourist map detailing the different regions and their different music styles, about 20 minutes of deleted scenes with introductions by the filmmakers, a brief featurette about the musicians that provided voices for the film, another featurette about the overall film, and a commentary track by directors David Smith and Walt Dohrn, and producer Gina Shay.

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