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From left: Cooper (Ron Funches), Mr. Dinkles (Kevin Michael Richardson), Biggie (James Corden), Guy Diamond (Kunal Nayyar), Tiny Diamond (Kenan Thompson), Satin (Aino Jawo), Chenille (Caroline Hjelt), Branch (Justin Timberlake) and Poppy (Anna Kendrick).

DreamWorks / Universal Pictures

  • Trolls World Tour
  • Directed by Walt Dohrn and David P. Smith
  • Written by Jonathan Aibel, Glenn Berger, Maya Forbes, Wallace Wolodarsky and Elizabeth Tippet
  • Featuring the voices of Anna Kendrick, Justin Timberlake and Rachel Bloom
  • Classification PG; 90 minutes

rating

2.5 out of 4 stars

Up until now, the Trolls franchise was best known for Justin Timberlake’s annoyingly catchy pop anthem, Can’t Stop the Feeling. Today, it might be responsible for breaking Hollywood’s entire business model.

Last month, when it became increasingly clear that audiences weren’t going to venture out to the movie theatre like they used to thanks to COVID-19, Universal Pictures announced that its big animation bet for the spring would open simultaneously in cinemas and become available on-demand for home viewing. Exhibitors were outraged at the unprecedented move – the National Association of Theatre Owners chief John Fithian said “theatre owners will not forget this” – but, quickly, every cinema that wasn’t a drive-in was shuttered and so Trolls World Tour arrives this weekend on-demand.

Story continues below advertisement

At the moment, Trolls is an outlier – most studios are hedging their bets that theatres will be back come the fall, and are holding onto their splashiest offerings rather than releasing them into the digital wilds for bored and/or content-starved home audiences. But if our current era of physical distancing continues for the rest of the year – or beyond – it will be awfully, darkly funny to look back and realize that the movie business changed thanks to a 90-minute exercise of glitter-drenched kiddie karaoke.

Trollzart (Gustavo Dudamel).

Photo Credit: DreamWorks Animati/DreamWorks / Universal Pictures

Picking up where the first film left off – don’t worry if neither you nor your kids watched that one; the thin plot is handily recapped off the top here – Trolls World Tour follows peppy Trolls queen Poppy (Anna Kendrick) and her lovestruck best friend Branch (Timberlake) as they seek to unite their many musically divided tribes before the nasty Queen of Rock (Rachel Bloom) destroys the world. Or something like that – plot is not remotely close to being the film’s main concern, despite the presence of its five screenwriters.

Mostly, Trolls World Tour exists to showcase its hefty musical-rights catalogue, with a new chart-topping ear-worm popping up every other 28 seconds or so. It’s zippy and distracting enough to keep you and your brood entertained for half an afternoon, but don’t get too comfortable – I can see the soundtrack eventually grating if you ever find your kids demanding to watch it over and over again. Which is inevitable.

There is a confusing message nestled in the pop-dominated film, too, about the, um, nefarious evils of pop music – or maybe it’s a warning against cultural appropriation? Or an instructive lesson on being yourself? On the presumed perils of being trapped in the Friend Zone? On the lies we tell ourselves when writing history, in an echo of last winter’s Frozen 2? Trolls World Tour has both too much and too little on its mind, and suffers for the confusion. It works best when it just sticks closely to the refrain of its big closing number: “Just sing!”

Trolls World Tour is now available on-demand

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