Only if you’re up for a visit to Funkytown should you partake in the candy-colored, pop-filled world of Trolls.
Directed by Mike Mitchell (Sky High) and Walt Dohrn, and based on the wildly popular dolls dating back to the '60s, the animated fairy tale/jukebox musical (*** out of four; rated PG; in theaters nationwide Friday) is populated by a gaggle of crazy-haired folks who are all about singing and dancing, hold insane raves in the forest and scream “YOLO!” at the top of their lungs. Like a roll of Smarties come to life, there’s more sugar and style to Trolls than substance — with the exception of a “Find your own happiness” theme — but you’d be hard-pressed to keep from smiling throughout the trippy dance sequences and clever banter in this feel-good confection.
Unlike the online haters who’ve taken the name, these Trolls are here for the party. The biggest buzzkill: the ogre-like Bergens, who can only feel good after they eat a Troll.
Princess Poppy (chirpily voiced by Anna Kendrick) is an adorably excitable girl who doesn’t worry much about the Bergens and instead focuses on hug time and scrapbooking. Most everybody shares her vibe except for Branch (Justin Timberlake), a snarky and rather gloomy Troll who’s the outcast. Instead of crooning Earth, Wind & Fire like his fellow Trolls, he spends time in his underground bunker waiting for the Bergen-mageddon.
The evil Bergen Chef (Christine Baranski) finds the Trolls’ home and nabs a bunch to make a meal and get in the good graces of young King Gristle (Christopher Mintz-Plasse). Poppy and Branch are the unlikely rescue team formed to go find them, and while they don’t get along at first, some revelations — and a side mission to give Bergen scullery maid Bridget (Zooey Deschanel) a makeover — let them see they’re better friends than frenemies.
The soundtrack is full of Top 40 tracks and medleys, so be prepared for the cheeriest take ever on Simon & Garfunkel’s The Sound of Silence. Most fly by as filler, but there are several standouts: The Bergens lurch along to a winningly depressing version of Gorillaz’s Clint Eastwood, Bridget channels Lionel Richie for a heartbreaking Hello, and Poppy and Branch deliver an emotional showstopper when they duet on Cyndi Lauper’s True Colors.
The original tunes are outstanding as well. No need to go on more about Timberlake’s ubiquitous, earwormy single Can’t Stop the Feeling but even better is Kendrick’s Get Back Up Again.
The sweetness can be a bit much at times — case in point, a Troll that passes glitter instead of gas. But you can’t fight the overwhelming sense of fun and lightness, one that little kids will especially adore (though they may hide their eyes during some of the Bergen attacks).
Just surrender to the heartwarming sentiment and witty cleverness as these little guys try to give Trolls a good name again.