Troll dolls with Jedward hair and the gormless stare of Bez from Happy Mondays have managed to be an on-off fad for over five decades. One might wonder why they haven’t been handed a film before. The reason is probably because there’s not much to adapt. No defined characters, no established origin story. They’re a name and little else. As sweet and likeable as their film is, it’s a shame its makers didn’t seize the opportunity this blank slate offered with more enthusiasm.
What the filmmakers Mike Mitchell (Shrek Forever After, The Spongebob Movie) and Walt Dohrn have made is a film that steps tentatively where there’s no need to. The trolls, who just love to sing and hug, live in fear of being eaten by much larger and less primary coloured monsters called the Bergens. The Bergens believe the only way to know happiness is to eat a troll. It’s not totally obvious why. When a small clutch of trolls are kidnapped and destined for the pot, the trolls’ leader Princess Poppy (Kendrick) and moody boy troll Branch (Timberlake) set off to get them back, growing closer as they go.
It’s gently amusing and probably a good way to keep a child quiet for the best part of 90 minutes. Every time it looks like taking a weird risk, though, it pulls back. There’s one original song, ‘Get Back Up Again’, which shows some wit, but then it falls back on well-known hits – ‘The Sound Of Silence’, ‘True Colours’ – which don’t do anything for the story. It’s just doll karaoke. There’s a weird interlude with a stoner-type Cloud Guy, but he’s a few, fun strange minutes, then gone.
There’s nothing to really dislike here; it’s too chirpy and enthusiastic for that. There’s just a disappointing lack of effort to do more than is expected of it.