It’s not just good to be a Troll; it’s amazing. Danish toy maker Thomas Dam’s oddly endearing creations — with their squat little bodies, cottony tufts of hair, and Karl Malden noses — seem designed for a kind of pure, gnomic joy. And in DreamWorks’ wide-screen imagination, they do in fact live every day like it’s Burning Man: a child-safe orgy of body glitter, Day-Glo dance parties, and group hugs.
Only one thing casts a shadow over their daily ecstasy — the lumbering Bergens, a race of depressive, dun-colored oafs who treat their tiny prey like a kind of organic Prozac. For the Bergens, happiness is a warm Troll: in a taco, in a goulash, à la carte. For years, though, they’ve gone hungry, their elusive soul food having found a safe haven in a land far away — until the day Troll Princess Poppy (Anna Kendrick) grows careless, throwing a hey-it’s-Tuesday rave so colossal that the cowbell and bursts of confetti reach the nefarious Chef (Christine Baranski), an exiled Bergen longing to be returned to the good graces of her peckish ruler, Prince Gristle (Christopher Mintz-Plasse).
Chef’s surprise raid forces Poppy to enlist Branch (Justin Timberlake), the only naturally unjolly Troll she knows, to get her friends back — he’s been predicting the Bergens’ deadly return, and pessimism comes as naturally to him as not singing. (At least initially; three guesses how that plot twist turns out.) Their plan isn’t exactly Argo, but it does offer excellent showcases for supporting characters, including Zooey Deschanel’s dreamy, snaggletoothed scullery maid, Russell Brand’s droll Creek, and a high-fiving cumulus called Cloud Guy. Trolls doesn’t reach for the emotional resonance of DreamWorks’ more ambitious efforts; its lessons of loyalty and kindness are standard-issue, and tear ducts remain untapped. Still, the movie’s serotonin pumps like a fire hose. It’s almost impossible not to surrender to the bliss. B+