Trolls World Tour review – by-the-numbers sequel quickly grates

Anna Kendrick and Justin Timberlake return for a bright but forgettable follow-up that fails to make a lasting impression

Nobody could have predicted that Trolls World Tour, a standard issue sequel to Trolls, would arrive as something of a landmark film. Designed as an obligatory follow-up to keep the franchise fires burning, it was never meant to be boundary-breaking or revolutionary – certainly not the first blockbuster to surrender its cinematic release in order to go straight to VOD platforms, bypassing movie theatres entirely. We have an ongoing pandemic to thank for that.

I will admit to having never seen the original Trolls in full, but in pieces here and there. Does that make me any less qualified to review Trolls World Tour? I don't think so – especially as this follow-up quickly recounts the original's story in its opening minutes, before unveiling a conventional story of its own. The idea this time is that Barb (Rachel Bloom), Queen of the Rock Trolls, plans to convert the different troll tribes – classical, funk, techno – by acquiring their individual magical strings. It's up to Queen of the Pop Trolls, Poppy (Anna Kendrick), best friend Branch (Justin Timberlake), and an assortment of sidekicks (Sam Rockwell, among them) to prevent the world from becoming a rock-only place.

The plot's not unlike that of a video game, where characters must hop from themed land to themed land, overcoming obstacles, dodging enemies. It's a simple story with its own working logic, but the film panics and spends far too long hammering home the specifics, continually over-explaining the premise until something that sort of made sense begins to make none at all. After an hour the whole affair begins to grate and there's a sense of being dragged along, unwillingly, for a further thirty minutes. Easy gags, endless puns, and the inclusion of James Corden as the third lead don't exactly help matters.

More odd is that Trolls World Tour, the second instalment in a franchise already known for its musical numbers, leans further into the musical aspects here – and yet there's nothing memorable in the way of songs, original or otherwise. The first Trolls at least birthed some catchy earworms, but nothing in this sequel sticks. The closet we get is a cover of “Girls Just Want to Have Fun” in the film's first few minutes, in which the world “girls” is replaced with “trolls” (did Cyndi Lauper have to sign off on that?).

There are a few small pleasures to be had. The mock stop-motion aesthetic, with its fabrics and textiles, is pleasing to the eye, and the world is fun and creatively imagined – like an explosion at a sweet factory. The film also makes a point of having something to say, albeit unsubtly, throwing in lines about history being written by the winners (a plot point this film shares with Frozen II) and declarations that the world would be boring if everyone was the same. But Trolls World Tour is at its best when it gives in to its weirder side, in trippier moments where it flirts with the experimental and hallucinogenic. Sadly the photorealistic white tigers are few and far between.

For a film landing at the height of a global quarantine, Trolls World Tour features an oddly prophetic line, too, in which Poppy, talking about father, says: “He may be fine with a world where everyone lives in isolation, but I'm not.” Poppy's words will resonate massively; unfortunately her film won't do a whole lot to take your mind off the situation. In fact, the only thing anyone's likely to remember about Trolls World Tour is the unexpected circumstance of its arrival.

Trolls World Tour is now showing on VOD.

Where to watch

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