Watching Trolls World Tour is akin to listening to a compilation album that you used to love most of the songs so much but grew sick of them after looping the tracks over and over again. This is exactly how I felt after attending the screening for Trolls World Tour, the sequel to 2016’s DreamWorks Animation hit. Not that the first Trolls was an animation gem by any means. Sure, it was clichéd but at least the 2016 version directed by Mike Mitchell and Walt Dohrn is briskly-paced with a decent level of goofy charm, colourful voice cast (particularly the pairing of Anna Kendrick and Justin Timberlake) and feel-good soundtrack (Justin Timberlake’s “Can’t Stop the Feeling!”).
In Trolls World Tour, co-directors Walt Dohrn and David P. Smith — the latter replaced Mike Mitchell, who departed the project to helm last year’s The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part instead — did try to replicate the first movie’s formula by expanding and multiply them with more song numbers. For the expansion part, the sequel even goes as far as introducing different kinds of trolls living in different places, where each of them has a respective taste of music (e.g. techno, country, classical, funk and rock).
The story itself basically follows Queen Barb (voiced by Rachel Bloom), who leads the Rock trolls and determined to eliminate every music genre. Her goal: turning rock as the one and only accepted music genre in the lands of trolls. In order to prevent Queen Barb from destroying every other music genre, it’s up to Queen Poppy (Anna Kendrick) from Pop trolls alongside her friend, Branch (Justin Timberlake) to save the day.
On paper, the idea of expanding the Trolls universe filled with different tribes and music genres is actually an ambitious approach. While the sequel does retain the same vibrant and colourful animation palette seen in the 2016 original, the overall execution feels surprisingly flat and uninvolving. The inclusion of different music genres, which allow the filmmakers to throw in old and recent popular songs from Scorpions’ “Rock You Like a Hurricane” and Daft Punk’s “One More Time” to Red Velvet’s “Russian Roulette” since the latter also features brief appearances of K-Pop trolls.
And yet, all the attempted mix-and-match soundtrack turns out to be a mixed bag. It doesn’t help either when the sequel’s original songs — among them are the all-star anthem of “Just Sing (Trolls World Tour)” — strangely lacking the same catchy vibes of the first movie’s “Can’t Stop the Feeling!”. The laughs, in the meantime, are few and far between with most of the best jokes already overexposed in the trailers.
The voice cast is at least a lifesaver here, beginning with Anna Kendrick and Justin Timberlake’s decent love-hate chemistry as Queen Poppy and Branch. James Corden’s recurring role as Biggie alongside his pet worm, Mr Dinkles provide some worthwhile comic relief while a newcomer to the Trolls franchise, Sam Rockwell steals most of the show as one of the Country trolls named Hickory.
Like the first movie, Trolls World Tour doesn’t leave out its moral lesson behind. Whereas Trolls is about finding your own happiness from within, the sequel wants us to know that music unites everybody and even served as an obvious metaphor to embrace diversity. It was actually a well-meaning approach but again, the haphazard execution makes me felt indifferent with the movie trying to present it loud and clear.