The Trolls return to our decimated world on a mission to entertain us as we shelter in our hovels; starving families without bread or water sell off their youngest for cash to download the second feature in the trolls franchise for a cool $20 in the U.S. or £15.99 in the U.K. As several parents have pointed out, this is extortion in a time of infectious disease; sure, yesterday, before the plague began, it might have cost $20 to take your niece or nephew to your local multiplex, probably more once sweeties and transport are included, but you were visiting a huge and expensive building, carefully cleaned and politely staffed, full of expensive equipment; there’s no such expense in piping a cartoon into your house, and no earthly reason to charge so much except just because greedy film-makers can.
(To go off at a tangent, I often watch a comedy sketch on You Tube before bed, SNL perhaps. But if I switch the tv off, You Tube switches on other choices while I’m not looking, racking up hits for programmes I’d never watch like James Corden, Piers Morgan or Graham Norton. U2 were correctly pilloried for using the same kind of marketing Trojan horse, but it seems to happen every second of every day, and it’s always the same ‘media celebrities’ who benefit. So when I look at their massive, highly touted viewing numbers for these shows, I suspect nothing more than a game, fixed and meaningless, soulless programmes watched by uncomprehending machines, with all humanity cut out of the equation. Everybody knows, as Leonard Cohen used to sing, that the dice are loaded…the game is fixed, the poor stay poor, the rich stay rich…)
And as many parents have complained, after your forked out $60 for three 48 hour rentals of Trolls World Tour, you’re left with precisely nothing but memories. This Dreamworks animation has been touted as the first major studio release to go straight to streaming (outside of Netflix), but it’s hard to imagine that old-fashioned theatre chains would have be prepared to tear up their three month window qualification just because Trolls World Tour came along; it’s much more likely that studios would have paid theatres for day and date screenings to raise the profile of a streaming release, because Trolls World Tour, for all its slick animation and glittery packaging, does not feel like something you’d see in the cinema.
Trolls was a more than decent animation, buoyed by the inclusion of lightning-in-a bottle hit of Justin Timberlake’s Can’t Stop The Feeling, a song so ubiquitously chirpy that it makes Pharrell William’s anthem Happy sound like the 3am ramblings of Ute Lemper. Trolls World Tour doesn’t have anything so potent in the locker; instead it expands the universe of the first film to posit six different lands, trolls who like rock, trolls who like classical, trolls who like black metal, and so on. Our trolls, Branch and Poppy (Timberlake and Anna Kendrick), are revealed as filed under Pop, and embark on a quest to find the six different strings of a magical instrument and unite the kingdom, a welcome relief from the politics of self-isolation that have been popular since the first film came out.
After a bright start with reprising Cindi Lauper with Trolls Just Wanna Have Fun, things get bogged down in plot; there’s a lot of trolls, a lot of music, but not much narrative thrust. On on-going gag about senility featuring Ozzy Osbourne is a regrettable lapse of taste, although the emphasis on ‘smooth jazz’ certainly raises a few genuine smiles. Walt Dohn’s film will undoubtedly do some business with captive audiences, but proceedings are dogged by a nagging feeling that the trolls are having more fun than us, a feeling that began when they took $20 off your debit accounts, and now, it seems, that feeling genuinely can’t be stopped. It’s the feeling that you’ve been had.