Urgent message hidden in kids’ movie
If your kids have been pestering you about Trolls World Tour, the sequel to 2016 movie Trolls, then its release will come as a relief.
The hyper-coloured animated musical isn't a family movie so much as it is a kid's movie - the parents are there because they have to be.
The adults in the room might get a kick out of some of the song covers - "Trolls Just Wanna Have Fun", "I Fall To Pieces" and "Barracuda" - but this is a movie that's made for children, and the attention span of children.
Which means not only is everything candy coloured, but the editing is so manic it threatens whiplash in anyone expecting a scene to go for more than 30 seconds without cutting away to a random meme or five.
But the elements that inspire queasiness in adults are likely the ones that kids will get high kicks out of. There is so much stimuli - visual and aural - you can bet it'll distract them for those kaleidoscopic 90 minutes.
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After the events of the first Trolls movie, Poppy (Anna Kendrick) is enjoying life as the Queen when she receives an invitation to a shindig from Barb (Rachel Bloom), the Queen of the Rock Trolls.
Not only does this interrupt friendzoned Branch's (Justin Timberlake) plans to declare his love for Poppy, it also unleashes a torrent of questions about these other Trolls.
King Peppy explains that many yonks ago, there were six tribes of Trolls, each with their own style of music - pop, country, rock, classical, techno and funk. There were six musical strings that powered their styles but infighting led to a schism, Tower of Babel-style, and each tribe went their own way with their own string.
While Peppy and Branch is fearful of stranger Barb's invitation, Poppy is super excited to find out there are other Trolls - after all, they're all Trolls, they're the same!
But Barb isn't interested in a kumbaya, she's out for musical supremacy, to take over all styles so that there is, in her words, "one nation of Trolls, under rock".
Trolls World Tour is telling a simple parable through the most obvious framework, one in which music stands in for culture, though the word "culture" isn't uttered until the final 10 minutes.
Instead of cultural backgrounds and religions, you have those six musical styles, but also K-Pop, yodelling, reggaeton, hip hop, smooth jazz and more, voiced by the likes of Kelly Clarkson, Sam Rockwell, Jamie Dornan, Mary J. Blige, Karan Soni and Ozzy Osbourne.
It's a surprisingly nuanced take on multiculturalism, albeit one that's been distilled for young minds.
All the archetypes are here, including Peppy with his fear of being overtaken by another musical style, Barb's Trumpian monoculture overtones and Poppy's insistence that all Trolls are the same.
It would surprise no one to find out that in the end, pluralism wins as Poppy, Barb and all the Trolls come to embrace the differences that make up harmonies.
It's a warm and fuzzy but urgent message. If this is what today's kids are growing up with, then that can only make you feel better about the next generation.
Trolls World Tour is in cinemas from Thursday, September 17 (excluding Victoria)
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Originally published as Urgent message hidden in kids' movie