Argumentative married couple Greg Bruce and Zanna Gillespie review Trolls World Tour.
Happiness (Trolls'): 5
Argumentativeness (Ours): 5
Heavy-handedness: (Ours/Theirs): 5
Trolls World Tour is soft chunks of morality in a happy soup of uplifting animated musical dance comedy - but that's not how I saw it.
On the car ride home, I said: "Ironically, in spite of its message that we're all different and we should value our differences, all these types of movies have the same message."
"I wouldn't say that," Zanna said, disagreeing with me even before I'd outlined my position, which was offensive but not really surprising.
I continued: "Love is the most important thing. Be nice to people. All that kind of crap."
She said: "God, you're an awful person."
That was not the first time she had said that to me; it wasn't even the first time that day. I continued, relatively unaffected: "There's a real issue as well with the power structure, the political structure, the power dynamic, about how we need strong leaders, about how strong leaders will save the world and how the rest of the trolls are secondary - it's up to the leaders to sort everything out. The idea that we're not powerful as a group, that we require these strong leaders to sort everything out, that's anathema to me."
She said, "The leaders were the last ones to cotton on."
"Sure," I said, "but who was on stage at the end? Who had the spotlight? Who had all the attention?"
"Yeah, but, but …" she said
I interrupted: "'But, but, but'! You know they did."
"Yeah, they did," she said. "That's true of our world, right? The leaders have all the attention but they should be - as was the case in the movie - led by the people. And they were in the end."
"But the leaders were still centre stage," I said. "Everybody was offering the glory to them. Poppy is the centre of our story. She is literally on stage."
This argument is at least as boring to write about as it is to read, and it was even more boring to be part of, but what else am I going to talk about? The quality of the songs? Which were outstanding?
"Every story has a protagonist," she said.
"Sure," I said, "but I'm saying that, philosophically, as a political statement, the idea that there's one powerful central person who shapes the world is troubling to me. I want a more communitarian outlook."
"I think you have taken that in with you," she said. "Because I don't think that that was the message at all."
"Au contraire," I said. "I've taken that out. Not in."
"No," she said, "I think you've taken that in."
Clara, 4, in the back seat, wearing a pink Trolls wig, unleashed a guttural roar of exasperation, which I think perfectly expressed the feelings of everyone in that car. She couldn't have known at the time - none of us could - but there was still 20 more minutes of this to endure.
Dreamworks sure knows how to not-so-subtly influence your experience of a film. We arrived at Hoyts Botany to find a Troll wig-wearing dance troupe doing some hype work in the foyer. It had zero impact on the kids but their sweet little enthusiastic faces triggered an endorphin release in my brain and toes and snapping fingers. It was 10am, though, so it may also have been caffeine. Inside, we helped ourselves to the free Trolls wigs and when we posed for the photographer, Greg and I were the only ones in our family wearing them. Were our children older than 3 and 4, I would have been at an embarrassment factor of 11.
Months ago, when lockdown started, we began a new family tradition of Saturday family movie nights. As Greg and I have the kind of social life that adapts seamlessly to isolation protocols, we've continued this tradition despite the fact that, gasp, I don't really like children's films. Trolls World Tour, however, did a good job of circumventing my distaste by handing me a glow stick and packing the movie full of booty-shaking bangers.
The premise is that Queen Poppy (Anna Kendrick) of the Pop Trolls discovers there are other Troll kingdoms representing other styles of music and Queen of Rock, Barb (Rachel Bloom), plans to take them all over and turn everyone into Rock Trolls. There's some heavy-handed moralising going on which was completely lost on its target audience - my kids - but I particularly enjoyed the fiery red stadium of Barb's raging rock trolls, which unmistakably resembled a MAGA convention.
The kids were managed with free popcorn and a Kinder Surprise egg, along with what Casper called the "magical buttons" that made his seat recline. Those buttons got a good working over especially towards the end of the film when his 3-year-old attention span was waning. I suspect they no longer work.
On the way home, Greg and I got into an unfathomably heated discussion about whether it was right that the pop trolls were the protagonists and not, say, the funk trolls or the reggaeton trolls. We went down a story ownership rabbit hole and into a representation warren. It was high-level woke Olympics at which there were no winners, least of all the hip-hop trolls.
Once the kids have had me play the Trolls World Tour soundtrack non-stop for the duration of the school holidays, I will resent this movie with every fibre of my being. Right now though, while still under the influence of free popcorn and wigs, I think it's lots of fun.
Trolls is in cinemas now.