Despite the large number of different places that the principal players of Trolls World Tour travel to, not once does this animated sequel head to Nilbog. A shame. However, Poppy (Anna Kendrick) and Branch (Justin Timberlake) still travel to a variety of newly revealed domains, each home to Trolls who follow a specific type of music. Rock, funk, techno, classical, they’ve each got their own land. However, they’re all threatened by rock Troll Barb (Rachel Bloom). She wants to pull a Thanos by gathering each realms strings and use them to turn everyone into rock Trolls.
The quest to stop Barb allows Trolls World Tour to indulge in the one major bright spot of this franchise: memorable animation. The world of Trolls was already one with cotton balls and grounds made up of fabric with visible sewing stitches. Now, a variety of new domains allow Director Walt Dohrn to take the distinct design style to fresh places. The home of classical Trolls, for example, is populated by clouds and golden coloring. Meanwhile, the Techno Trolls live in an underwater glow-in-the-Dark wonderland.
Every other scene, Trolls World Tour breaks out some new locale that provides plenty of eye candy. If the whole movie was just a silent tour of these various lands, it‘d be incredible. Unfortunately, Trolls World Tour is very much trying to be a traditional animated kids movie. That means the pretty sets are backdrops to banal jokes and a barrage of predictable story turns. For a movie that takes a brief detour into visual psychedelia, Trolls World Tour is disappointingly content to rigidly go through the motions on a storytelling level.
Worst of all, though, is the music. I’m convinced both Trolls movies would be vastly improved if their various musical numbers were original creations. Alas, Trolls World Tour, like it’s predecessor, opts for gratingly auto-tuned renditions of Top 40 hits that always get needledropped in movies. If we’re going to make this a jukebox musical, couldn’t there be some imagination in the song choices? I'm half-surprised we didn't get some Trolls belting out a cover of Fortunate Son! It’s baffling to hear the likes of Anthony Ramos and Rachel Bloom using their vocals to deliver tired covers of One More Time and Crazy Train.
The animation in Trolls World Tour evokes Yellow Submarine but its soundtrack is one step above your average Kidz Bop album. Pity the poor parents whose small children make them listen to these ditties on repeat. Meanwhile, the comedy in Trolls World Tour fares a bit better than the songs. A number of gags tend to take advantage of the absurdist nature of the whole universe and the most oddball jokes tend to be the ones that work best.
Ditto anytime Trolls engages in some dark humor (like a sight gag involving a bunch of cows walking into an eatery to get turned into burgers), I found myself cackling. What can I say? I’m a sucker for dark stuff happening to cutesy characters. I yam what I yam! Looking over it as a whole, there’s just enough in Trolls World Tour to make it an improvement over its predecessor and relatively harmless as far as kids fare goes. However, when the inevitable Trolls 3 happens, can the same level of confidence apparent in the animation be applied to the music? My heart yearns for these Trolls movies to do actual musical numbers and not the animated equivalent to Carpool Karaoke.