Now, I know I'm likely the only fully-formed adult without children who still would have gone to see this film in the theaters if they were still open. Still, despite that, I watched Trolls World Tour from the confined comfort of my couch, and it was unsurprisingly derivative. Don't get me wrong, it still felt fun and had the bright aesthetic the Trolls are known for, but it fell a little flat story and character-wise for me. Regardless, this is still a movie made for children to dance along to, and I judge it as such. However, that still doesn't make it automatically fantastic – or even as good as the first one; sequel syndrome is real.
The first Trolls film was adorable, surprising (and yet still formulaic), and full of music and bright colors and comedy. It's relate-able, especially the dichotomy between Branch (Justin Timberlake) and Poppy (Anna Kendrick); she refuses to see the world as anything but candy-coated sunshine, and he's a staunch realist bordering on slightly bitter. Besides, Russel Brand, as the traitorous hippie troll is kind of everything. Though, that is a little made up for this time with rock prince of darkness Ozzy Ozbourne voicing King Thrash in this movie.
However, Trolls World Tour has a criminal under-use of Ozzy, and little redemption to Poppy's abhorrent behavior this time. Her father even apologizes at the end for being right. For the record, Poppy went behind his back when he knew best, and she mucked everything up and caused pain and suffering. Not exactly the moral I was looking for. The resolution comes out of nowhere and solves no real issues to get there; I suppose Pixar has ruined me and my expectations from animated films now in regards to broader themes and morals to the stories. Yes, the movies about colorful trolls and talking objects are made to be appealing to children, but if they don't hold up to the adults who have to watch them with their child on constant repeat, the film isn't going to have lasting power.
Trolls World Tour Unfortunately Lacks a Proper Ending
As someone who was raised in "Music City" and has a deep love for classic rock, I've been looking forward to Trolls World Tour for a while now, but it wasn't quite up to my expectations, musical or otherwise. Queen Poppy is the most problematic character in the Trolls universe; in the first one, she refused to see the bad in people. That turned out alright in the end with her belief that the Bergens are not all awful creatures leading to her saving the Trolls from genocide. It turned out alright in the end with her learning that it's okay to be sad sometimes, and it's not natural for anyone to suppress all emotions except for the happy ones. As queen of the south, Miss Dolly Parton says, "everybody wants sunshine, nobody wants pain, but you can't have a rainbow without a little rain."
In Trolls World Tour, Poppy's back to being problematic when her refusal to listen to anybody whose point of view is different from hers ends up destroying the six strings of music, in a scene that's basically a clone of the first film's "True Colors" sequence. Let's back up a minute, though – there are six strings of music, one for each of the "founding" genres: country, pop, rock, classical, funk, and techno, and each has their own nation of trolls. They used to be united, but pop tried to take over all the styles, so they each took their strings and parted ways. Now Queen Barb (Rachel Bloom) of the rock trolls wants to reunite the strings so that one style can reign supreme: rock.
Barb is just as problematic as Poppy was in the first movie, except this time when we get to the "lean your lesson" redemption arc in the third act, Poppy is once again the character who learns that lesson – sort of. The "hero's journey" is predictable, albeit a little musically uninteresting, but mostly alright until the end. The lesson both Barb and Poppy learn is "let everybody just be who they want to be," which is great – but neither of them really go through any monumental changes that force them to come to that realization by themselves. True to form, Barb's dad tells her the lesson she should learn, and then through an elaborate musical number where everyone comes together, everything is magically resolved. Everyone is now rainbow-colored and working together.
That's not how it should go, though. The movie should end with Barb and Poppy collaborating to start the music that brings all of the genres back and keeps music alive while they both look at each other and realize that their music isn't so different, and it all stems from the same place: the soul. Poppy should have a moment where she genuinely listens to Barb's complaints against pop and all things happy and glitter, and Barb should realize that glitter punk is a totally rad genre, and maybe a little pop of pop isn't so bad. Cue musical number, toy product placements, fuzzy animals being cute, credits cameos, and roll credits. That's the ending and moral this movie really needed.
Don't get me wrong; I really do like this film – I just expected more from it to push it over the top into the "I love this film" category. It feels fun and colorful, but it's a bit like cotton candy: bright colored sugar and fluff that feels exciting at the time, but when the sugar rush wears off, you realize there's no real substance behind it. The ending falls flat, and their representation of the other musical genres is paltry at best, especially for a film that's supposed to be all about different musical styles. At the end of the day, the heavily pop-infused Trolls World Tour rocks less than the original, but it still rocks enough to keep the kids entertained.