PG, but the allegory is just there on the screen, man. It's got the same thing that Zootopia has going on. Seemingly a fun story about hairy babies singing about stuff, the entire film is a strong message about being an anti-racist. I'm all for that. I loved Zootopia for doing that. I love this for doing the same thing. But I know that a lot of parents might feel icky about the preachy factor being lined into kids' movies. Being all for it, I tend to encourage this kind of thing. But I also know that this movie may require a heavy discussion after watching it. PG.
DIRECTORS: Walt Dohrn and David P. Smith
How is it that I really dislike the first entry and completely get on board the second entry? Seriously, the first Trolls movie would play in our house on repeat for months after it hit home video. I'm not going to read my thoughts on the first movie right now. For all I know, I was positive about the movie. I just know that, after multiple viewings of the film, I find that movie to be grating and annoying. It's got a really weird message and I don't want to hear the same snippets of songs again. I don't know why I was down to watch Trolls World Tour though. I think it was because it seemed fairly new and it was on Hulu. Like, I felt like I was cheating the system by distracting my kids long enough for this to hit one the streaming services we were already paying for. But Trolls World Tour kind of made me turn my head and take it seriously, considering it still is a movie about big haired baby people who sing.
If I get politically charged, it's because I stayed up and watched the debates last night and I realized how terrible things have gotten in this country. Sorry if that bums anyone out, but considering that Trolls World Tour (with a name like that, how can you not appreciate the irony?!) is about anti-racism, I can't help but get intense. While I will always hold Zootopia as the pinnacle of challenging kids' movies, Trolls World Tour might get my second place. The thing that really works about Trolls World Tour is that it really sneaks up on you. I think a lot of that comes from the fact that the first film is just so vapid and empty, that when the seeds of racism are being discussed, I had to question what I was watching. My mental narration was, "Wouldn't it be crazy if the music represented cultural appropriation and not-seeing-race?" And then I scoffed at that, thinking that Dreamworks didn't have the guts to do that. But as the movie kept going on, I kept seeing those seeds getting fed and there were more and more things that really sold the idea.
It's such a complex battle that the movie fights for. I mean, there are levels here that I wasn't prepped. The message I always had growing up was that we were one global community. There's something valuable about viewing civilization as human first and cultural / racial second. But it also is an overly simplistic and demeaning idea to think that people shouldn't celebrate their differences. Using the metaphor of music (which could get pretty touchy, the more I think about it), World Tour sells the concept that so much about what white culture views as open-minded is simply the recurring concept that white people aren't monsters.
You did get that the Pop Trolls represented white people, right?
Because the movie straight up calls out the Pop Trolls for the concept of institutionalized racism. Yeah, the Rock Trolls (it's very odd to be writing this, by the way. Just sympathize with the surrealness I'm dealing with right now for a second) are the clear bad guys. By using violence to spread their own culture, it harkens back to conquistador culture and the de facto segregation of cultures. Because the Rock Trolls view their music as superior, the other types of cultures / musics must therefore be inferior. I won't deny that this bummed me out because I was jazzed (pun intended) to hear some music that wasn't pop with this film. I probably sang along with the Rock Trolls more than I'm comfortable admitting to. But the idea that everyone else has to conform to the most powerful aggressor's cultural norm is the toxic, visible threat makes the secondary threat all the more troubling.
When it is revealed that the Pop Trolls were the first group to attempt the Rock Trolls' plan, there's something to be said about the rewriting of history to comfort the aggressor. Poppy and her tribe live a pretty charmed life. (Or since they're the Pop Trolls, you could say "Semi-Charmed Sort of Life".) But that comfort stemmed from the idea that they thought that they were the superior tribe. It's a really weird gag when Poppy's father tries hushing the whole thing up and claims moral victory over the happy ending, but it is a kids' movie. But that realization that absolute unity isn't necessarily a good thing. People have voices and cultural beliefs that should be respected and not appropriated. The idea that these cultures should be respected for what they are, while maintaining healthy relationships is probably a better idea. Not everyone should be what White America considers the norm. It's appreciation and respect, not co-opting a culture to make the self feel comfortable.
Because the message of Trolls World Tour is so overt and central to the film, the actual mythology of Trolls might not be serviced as much as it should though. I know. I am also reading the sentence I'm writing and question everything I'm doing with my life. But the movie sells a couple of major plot points for the characters to grow. Poppy is so obsessed with being seen as an effective leader. Branch is in love with Poppy and he doesn't know how to tell her, especially when she is making mistakes left and right. James Corden's character, for some reason, feels betrayed. These are all storytelling tropes that feel distantly second compared to the central message. While there is a bit of a disjointed tie to the central theme, it does require a lot of heavy lifting for the viewer to get to these moments. They don't come organically.
But Trolls World Tour is great. Yeah, I know a lot of parents don't like message movies, especially ones that tie into politics. But if we're going to ask our kids to be better than we are, stories like this might be important. It takes a complex concept and makes it relatable.
Film is great. It can challenge us. It can entertain us. It can puzzle us. It can awaken us.
Mr. H has watched an upsetting amount of movies. They bring him a level of joy that few things have achieved.