Trolls World Tour

 

            You just think we're divided along political and demographic lines, but few things divide us into camps more than our tastes in music.  Not only are there traditional enmities, like between country and rap, but also between subcategories, like traditional tejano and funk.  Chances are, if you're a classical music afficianado, you're not into punk rock.  If you enjoy smooth jazz, you probably don't like techno.

            In this animated film from Dreamworks, trolls are divided into six different tribes:  Funk, Country, Techno, Classical, Pop, and Rock.  (Yes, one could certainly debate the selection of those categories to the exclusion of others, but that's part of the fun.)  The Queen of the Pop realm, Poppy (Anna Kendrick) and her best friend, Branch (Justin Timberlake), are confronted by the troll who's the Queen of Rock (Rachel Bloom), and told they're in for a war.  Rock wants to take over all of the six realms, so Poppy and Branch go on a journey to try to enlist the aid of the other trolls.

            Poppy begins with the assumption that they're all the same, because they're all trolls, but has to learn along the way that minimizing differences actually disrespects individuality.  She also has to learn that being a leader doesn't mean trying to get everybody to think like you, but instead, allowing everyone else to have their say, as well.  Branch, for his part, has a hard time whenever he tries to tell Poppy how much she means to him.  But Director Walt Dohrn wisely doesn't force us to root for the romance.  Instead, he invites to celebrate all the different genres, for their uniqueness of expression.  Yes, there's a bit of tongue-in-cheek bias, about how Pop ruins everything (Kendrick and Timberlake both being representatives of that genre).  But the plot is a good excuse for a spirited concert, celebrating different styles.  The only thing that doesn't work well is the attempt, at the end, to find a song that would represent everyone----it doesn't.  But then, that's part of the point of the rest:  music doesn't have to be all homogenized.  We can enjoy it in all its colorful variations.

            No, it's not world-shaking cinema, and the fate of the universe is not at stake.  But as a harmless little offering about embracing our different tastes, even in music—especially in music—-it's a well-timed tale of tolerance and partnership in a nervous era of distrust and suspicion.  And the whole quarantined family can enjoy it together.

 

Dr. Ronald P. Salfen, DFW Film Critics Association