The 2016 DreamWorks’ movie Trolls was a sugary shock to the system with intensely auto-tuned music for a ‘fun’ distracting ride. Although the film possessed a kinetic story and avoids being tangled up in a meaningless cast of big names, it never quite did anything special for adult audiences who grew up during the time of troll dolls. In many ways its sequel, Trolls World Tour, gives us that dose of adventure and entertainment the original couldn’t provide, translating better for the parents and a bit for the kids.
After adjusting to her new role as Queen of the Trolls, Poppy (Anna Kendrick) discovers their world is a lot bigger and more musical than she originally thought. A long time ago, the entire race of Trolls discovered music through a magical harp containing six strings, each representing a different musical style: hard rock, funk, classical, country western, techno, and pop. The strings were divided amongst the six leaders after a dispute broke out regarding which style was best.
When Poppy receives a letter from Barb (Rachel Bloom) – the queen of the Hard Rock Trolls – proposing they have a party and unite their music, she’s delighted. But unbeknownst to Poppy, Barb actually wants to steal all the strings so she can gain the power to force everyone to be a Hard Rock Troll. Now Poppy and her best friend Branch (Justin Timberlake) have to travel across the musical realms of Trolldom to stop Barb from destroying the different styles of music.
While the story here is pretty strong with an intriguing premise, it ignores music history completely. Music genres are constantly evolving, but each of these styles get tied to a specific race and identity, never showing how cultural appropriation has actually helped develop certain sounds and styles of music throughout history. The plethora of writers behind the script didn’t care much about how actual music has changed and evolved over time, only that we should all live together in ‘harmony’ despite our differences.
On the plus side, the songs included here are mostly a step up from its predecessor, and it goes without saying that the jukebox is a bit more eclectic. While the soundtrack lacks a singular hit like Justin Timberlake’s “Can’t Stop The Feeling”, some of my favorites were the country song performed by Kelly Clarkson’s character Delta Dawn, the Country Troll Queen, or the hip-hop/funk hybrid “It’s All Love (History of Funk)” by Anderson .Paak, Mary J. Blige, and the legendary George Clinton.
Trolls World Tour is a really enjoyable sequel, despite itself. Although the movie has a very strong agenda that it can’t really ever escape – nor does it want to – the adventure Poppy and Branch go on exploring different worlds and music is fun, even if it always feels like we’re being preached to. This sequel is superior to the passable 2016 original, but the writers decided to prioritize high concept over humor with a lack of true lessons in musical history and how the blending of cultural styles helped evolve music over time.