"Trolls" is akin to a big, warm, mushy hug, which is perhaps the best compliment to be given to the chipper, rainbow-haired title creatures. They love a good embrace, after all, scheduling hugging sessions every hour on the hour. Everything would be glitter and cupcakes for the innately happy Trolls if it weren't for one nagging threat: the nasty, miserable Bergens, who gobble up Trollsand, by extension, their happinessduring an annual macabre holiday they call Trollstice. Twenty years after the Trolls made a daring escape from Bergen Town and rebuilt their community, their presumed safety comes crashing down when the cast-out Bergen Chef (voiced by Christine Baranski) stumbles upon their home and snatches a handful of Princess Poppy's (Anna Kendrick) friends. Determined to rescue her pals, Poppy convinces the morose, antisocial Branch (Justin Timberlake)an aficionado of the Bergens' waysto accompany her on her journey.
Exuberantly directed by Mike Mitchell (2011's "Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked
") and co-directed by Walt Dohrn, "Trolls" is as irresistible and infectious as the Trolls' eternally sunny optimism. Screenwriters Jonathan Aibel and Glenn Berger (2011's "Kung Fu Panda 2
") have penned a charming musical adventure full of song, heart and imagination. At its center is the adorable, scrapbook-loving Princess Poppy, always finding the bright side when faced with adversitya sentiment she sings about in the catchy original tune "Get Back Up Again." Other entertaining musical numbers are organically threaded into the story throughout, a collection of unforced covers which include Earth, Wind & Fire's "September," Simon & Garfunkel's "The Sound of Silence," Lionel Richie's "Hello," and Justin Timberlake's "Can't Stop the Feeling!"
Anna Kendrick (2015's "Pitch Perfect 2
") is, without fail, luminous in front of the camera, so it would only make sense that she is just as winning in a recording booth. She not only brings a plucky energy and lovable sensitivity to this character's vocals, but delivers a fully formed performance, becoming as real to the viewer as if this were a live-action role. If Kendrick could put her ample singing talents to use in every movie she's in from now until the end of time, cinema would be better for it. A slew of other actors stand out on their own accord. Justin Timberlake (2013's "Inside Llewyn Davis
") is terrific as Branch, his glum disposition standing at amusing opposition to Poppy's cheery demeanor until the reasons for his behavior give him touching unforeseen layers. As Bridget, a downtrodden Bergen scullery maid who agrees to help Poppy and Branch save their friends in exchange for a date with young King Gristle Jr. (Christopher Mintz-Plasse"), Zooey Deschanel (2011's "Our Idiot Brother
") is an amiable comedic delight. And, as the scheming Chef, Christine Baranski (2014's "Into the Woods
") has a field day digging into her villainous part, a sort of female counterpart to Ben Kingsley's Archibald Snatcher from 2014's "The Boxtrolls
The emotional centerpiece of "Trolls" is an eleven o'clock duet of Cyndi Lauper's quixotic ballad "True Colors" between Poppy and Branch, a pivotal turning point revealing the empathetic humanity behind Branch's closed-off exterior. By finally leaving behind the guilt he has harbored since childhood, he gives the discouraged Poppy the most invaluable of gifts: the inspiration to go on and keep singing. Both of them, in turn, give the beautiful-inside-and-out Bridget and the rest of the Bergens a long-needed lesson of their own, one that speaks to the honest nature of real, non-fabricated happiness. Gloriously computer-animated on top of being a well-told storythe hairs on the Trolls' heads are so life-like one almost feels as if he or she can reach into the screen and stroke them"Trolls" takes a long-in-the-tooth doll brand (created by Thomas Dam) that hit its pop-culture zenith in the 1990s and quickly exceeds expectations. If this film's inevitable success is any indication, a major resurgence in popularity is about to take place.