If you've ever gone on a car ride with someone else and fought over what music to listen to, you'll probably relate to Trolls World Tour. This sequel to the 2016 animated hit is all about the various forms of music, and how we perpetually run the risk of becoming music snobs who cherish our preferred style over those of others. The movie is less character-driven than the original, but it makes up for that by embracing more interesting themes.
This time, Poppy (Anna Kendrick) and Branch (Justin Timberlake) discover that there are six total Troll lands, with each group making its own form of music. A Rock Troll named Barb (Rachel Bloom) is to this movie what Thanos is to the MCU. She has a plan to steal the magical musical string of each land, thread it into her electric guitar, and make all Trolls bow down to the power of heavy metal. Poppy and Branch set out to stop her, with the help of a Country Troll named Hickory (Sam Rockwell).
Trolls World Tour is really clever about music. Each of the Troll lands – classical, techno, pop, funk, country, and rock – is depicted with great visual imagination. In the techno land, for example, everything is lit up like a glow stick and there's a constant thumping beat. The rock land is defined by metallic objects and the color black. Other forms of music are represented in the form of “bounty hunters” trying to stop Poppy and Branch. They include a Smooth Jazz Troll who's like Kenny G if he suddenly became Boba Fett. This kind of cleverness extends to the voice casting. Kelly Clarkson plays Delta Dawn, the queen of the country land, and the leaders of the funk land are voiced by George Clinton and Mary J. Blige. Ozzy Osbourne even pops up as Barb's hard rocking father.
Tailoring the animation to each land makes Trolls World Tour endlessly fun to look at. Little details, jokes, and easter eggs are packed into the corners of the frame. The movie builds each area carefully, which helps its main idea ring meaningfully. Different people like (or dislike) different types of music, but snobbery is pointless because the genres have ways of blending together into something new and cool. Barb's guitar may only contain six strings, yet they represent an infinite number of possibilities.
The movie additionally works in a minor subplot that mirrors the long history of white artists co-opting the styles of black musicians. Although it doesn't get too heavy into that, it's another idea that helps expose young viewers to the complexity of music, as well as the need to respect the talents/tastes of others.
The relationship between Poppy and Branch gets a little lost amid all the musical mayhem, and some of the supporting characters from the original are sidelined here. Trolls World Tour is still slightly better than its predecessor. Funny jokes and great songs are featured throughout, along with bright, colorful animation. Everyone in the family can have a good time with this movie.
out of four
Trolls World Tour is rated PG for some mild rude humor. The running time is 1 hour and 30 minutes.