MOVIE "Trolls World Tour"
WHEN|WHERE Now on video on demand
Bad news, rock and rollers: You’re the villains in “Trolls World Tour.”
Well, someone had to be. Universal’s animated feature from 2016 introduced a village of trolls — inspired by those little dolls with the bright shocks of hair — who subsisted on nothing but hugs, happiness and the Top 40. In that movie, their enemies were joyless ogres whose hearts were finally melted by a rousing rendition of “Can’t Stop the Feeling!” sung by Anna Kendrick as Princess Poppy and Justin Timberlake as Branch. Here, they’re up against one of their own, Queen Barb (Rachel Bloom), a pint-size but domineering heavy metal guitarist on a mission to destroy all other musical idioms. Her slogan: “One Nation Under Rock!”
Dude — wasn’t that a festival in the ‘90s? Back then, rock was the great uniter: Lollapalooza, Woodstock ’94 and all that. In “Trolls World Tour,” rock is an outdated musical patriarchy, led by the enfeebled King Thrash (Ozzy Osbourne). His daughter, Barb, is the ultimate rockist, mocking everything as “not music” and saving her deepest hatred for pop, with its inane lyrics and repetitive hooks. At times, Barb sounds like a middle-aged dad in a Clash T-shirt.
As with the Beatles-based fantasy “Yesterday,” the less you care about music the more you’ll enjoy “Trolls World Tour.” The movie informs us that in ancient times, the once-unified troll population split into five kingdoms: Rock, Pop, Techno, Funk, Country and Classical. Don’t bother yelling about Blues, Soul, Post-Punk, Musique Concrète or anything non-Western. This is music history for very young children (director Walt Dohrn is a veteran of the “SpongeBob SquarePants” series), which means genres are reduced to their simple stereotypes. In the country-music world of Lonesome Flatts, for instance, everyone is a horse, and Mayor Delta Dawn (Kelly Clarkson) goes around singing a tongue-in-cheek downer called “Born to Die” (written by Timberlake and Chris Stapleton).
Things get interesting when Poppy and Branch visit the funk kingdom, Vibe City, whose king and queen are played by George Clinton and Mary J. Blige. It’s here we learn about cultural appropriation and the African-American origins of popular music in a lilting rap by Prince Darnell (Anderson .Paak). Those who remember their first econ lessons from Looney Tunes will enjoy this little interlude, which includes a sharp joke about artists’ publishing rights.
Originally a theatrical release, “Trolls World Tour” is being released for home viewing during the coronavirus shutdown. Kids will probably be tickled by the slapstick humor and whimsical dance numbers. As for rock fans, you’ll have settle for a snippet of Heart’s “Barracuda.”