When Queen Barb of the Rock Trolls decides that Troll music must all be unified under one single banner – rock – Poppy, queen of the Pop trolls, embarks on a musical quest to bring all the trolls together in harmony.
The plot of Trolls World Tour is quite simple: Queen Barb of the Rock Trolls (Rachel Bloom) is flying around to each of the six Troll tribes to get their string – the heart of their style of music. When she has all six strings, she’ll put them in her magic guitar and play them, making all the Trolls into Rock Trolls. So, Queen Poppy (Anna Kendrick) embarks on a journey all her own to rally the Trolls to convince the Rock Trolls to live in harmony with the rest of the Trolls. This jukebox musical (think Mamma Mia! for kids – a ton of mainstream songs all jammed together in a musical) is vibrant and silly and light-hearted.
I was completely lost and frustrated for the first 10 minutes of Trolls World Tour. Maybe it’s because I haven’t seen the first one (I’m going right against my completist lifestyle here). Maybe it’s because the opening scenes explode at you like a neon-glitter chaos hurricane, like a game of musical word-lyrics association, like an episode of Glee hopped up on every hallucinogenic imaginable. It’s a disorienting sensory explosion of epic proportions. A tiny, glittery baby inexplicably hatches out of an egg from his father’s hair (“Tiny Diamond is his name; he comes from his daddy’s mane; his whole body’s made of glitter, and he’ll throw it in your face”), Queen Poppy surveys her trollish kingdom, and hundreds of Pop Trolls sing a mashup of every pop song known to man sung by a rogues gallery of singers and voice actors. I was honestly, truly, deeply confused. Then, I just let it happen, and it got a lot better.
The animation is lavish, with a unique style for each of the Troll villages. These trolls in no way resemble the creepy dolls we all had growing up–they’re cute and fun. This is certainly a movie made for kids, and that’s no bad thing. The songs are big and fun and generally well-adapted to the Trolls universe (“Trolls Just Wanna Have Fun”), though nothing matches Justin Timberlake’s song from the first Trolls film (the only thing I knew about the movie going into it). It’s got some significant, head-scratching plot holes, but it’s not meant to be a pensive, nuanced film. I’m just not its target audience. Its message is of more import to me.
The message of Trolls World Tour is strong and resonant in today’s world. We’re literally quarantined, forced to stay socially distant from one another. Our world has literally forced us to separate from one another, which rekindles fears and divisiveness. We’re not all one and the same, and that’s fine! In a move that differs from many other films, Trolls World Tour is brave enough to tell us all that it’s okay to be different from one another. We’re a vastly diverse world with a wide range of beliefs and lifestyles and taste. That’s okay. We might not always get along. That’s okay. The way we treat people with whom we disagree matters much more when we’re talking about forging and maintaining a healthy, harmonious society. “Real harmony takes lots of voices—different voices. You can’t harmonize alone.” No song has only one note. Differences do matter, for differences can create marvelous music.
There’s a really heartwarming, necessary message at the heart of this beautifully animated film. In our fear-filled age of divisiveness and isolation, we need more films that really aim toward loving one another. While there are some missteps of execution in Trolls World Tour—some story voices that may undermine that message, and some story points that are really confusing—I do appreciate its ultimate goal: love one another.
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Tyler is a teacher, librarian and the Co-host of The Geek Card Check Podcast. He has been a Film Critic for Ready Steady Cut since 2018.