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Bob Hoose

Movie Review

Trolls are happy creatures who have always lived in a happy tree in a happy forest. They have happy bodies. Happy hair. In fact, that’s probably why their brightly colored mops seem to be exploding out of the top of their heads. I mean, how do you keep that kind of neon joy combed down?

These cute little guys are so blissfully gleeful that they can’t keep themselves from breaking out in song at any given moment. They love to hug, too. They hug each other so much that they have to limit it to once an hour just so they can actually get something else done.

However, always being that euphorically enthused does have its drawbacks. For one thing, it emphasizes to those less-happy sorts that they’re kinda missing out.

Take the goblin-like Bergens, for example.

It’s not hard to see why a troll is glad and giggly while a Bergen is gruff and glum. Troll fashions scream “rainbow color!” Bergan outfits sob “messy diaper.” When trolls warble with joy, Bergens can only muster a moan.

Now, all that wouldn’t have been too terrible except for the fact that one day a big, bulky Bergen discovered that if a Bergen eats a troll, then he’ll be a little happier for a short while, too. So the next thing you know, those giant gloomy guys caged up the troll tree and created a once-a-year holiday called Trollstace: a single day when every Bergen can get a “taste” of happiness.

Ew, right?

Well, it didn’t take long for the trolls, led by their brave King Peppy, to decide they needed to do something to avoid extinction. So they tunneled past the cage walls and found a path to freedom.

Of course, that was some 20 years ago. The trolls have since set up a new home in a wonderful little wooded hollow with lots of fresh air, clean water and … great acoustics. (Hey, they still love to sing, right?) And King Peppy is just about to cede his throne to his daughter, Poppy, probably the happiest, sweetest-voiced and most gifted troll you’ll ever meet. Yep, she can whip up a fabulous felt scrapbook or a humdinger of a group sing in no time at all.

Little do Poppy and her hollow full of happy huggers know, however, that the Bergens haven’t given up on their quest for happiness. They haven’t made peace with their melancholy misery. And they know there’s only one way a Bergen will ever dispel that soul-sucking sorrow: by somehow getting their hands (and teeth) on those perpetually happy-go-lucky trolls.

Positive Elements

The trolls are a kind and loving group. And those traits generally make things better for them when the chips are down. One thing Poppy is sure of—a conviction she shares with some Bergens and a rather bad-tempered troll named Branch—is that “happiness is inside of us all … you just need someone to help you find it.”

[Spoiler Warning] Accordingly, she takes steps to help a girl Bergen named Bridget come to grips with that truth. In fact, because of the never-give-up actions of Poppy and a few other trolls, literally the whole population of Bergentown comes to understand that happiness comes from the heart, not from eating small, happy creatures.

Poppy puts her life on the line to rescue her friends. And after some grumbling, Branch makes sacrifices, too. During a crisis, King Peppy runs back to help some straggling trolls, yelling, “No troll left behind!” Branch tells Poppy, “Bad things happen, and there’s nothing you can do about it.” But he learns that there are caring things you can do to help other people during those bad times.

Spiritual Elements

A troll named Creek displays a very “get in touch with your inner nature” kind of attitude around the other trolls. He uses the Hindu phrase, “Namaste.”

Sexual Content

The Bergen leader, King Gristle, and a palace chambermaid named Bridget share a nerdy love story of sorts and ultimately kiss during a dream sequence. A couple of androgynous Trolls are covered by nothing but sparkles. During a rescue of several trolls, King Peppy loses bits of his clothing until he steps out of a tunnel wearing nothing. We see his bare backside and witness a crowd’s surprised reaction.

Violent Content

A number of trolls get grabbed and gobbled up in scenes that are more suggestive than messy or graphic, but which could be mildly disturbing to sensitive little viewers nonetheless.

A Bergen and a troll fall into the open mouth of a giant plant-like creature. Some cartoony forest monsters eat each other. In the midst of a scrapbook story, a felt character has its head bloodlessly removed and swallowed. Animals and spiders crawl threateningly toward a defenseless Poppy before being knocked away. Branch tells a story of his grandmother being snatched up by a monster (and it’s implied that she’s eaten).

A troll is choked by two other trolls. A Bergen gets set on fire. A Bergen boy rips out handfuls of an elder’s chest hair. One Bergen is so hopeless that he buries himself alive in the hope of dying sooner. A troll funeral gets disrupted, ejecting a coffin’s occupant (who’s wearing what appears to be a clown outfit with Xs over its eyes).

Crude or Profane Language

We hear several exclamations of “oh my god.”

Drug and Alcohol Content

Trolls themselves constitute something of a “drug” since Bergens believe that eating one will provide a short-lived injection of happiness.

Other Negative Elements

One character repeatedly shoots glitter from his backside, while another frightened fellow ejects several cupcakes in the same manner. A troll has the glitter on his backside ground off by a spinning wheel. A troll sells out his friends in an effort to save his own skin.


Back in the 1960’s, little plastic Troll dolls with multihued shocks of fuzzy hair were all the rage. And those so-ugly-they-were-cute collectables have resurfaced to capture kids’ attention several times in the decades since. In more recent decades, they’ve shown up in miniature form, perched on the eraser end of some little tyke’s pencil. So, it’s not a major surprise that Hollywood decided it was time to give these wee creatures a Smurfy makeover and their own 3-D movie.

The film-version Trolls aren’t so bug-eyed, round-tummied and muggly as the ones we might remember. They sing, they dance, they hug. A lot. And they set out to turn even the most grumpy grumblers onto their form of get-up-and-party revelry through a combination of brightly colored felt, sticky sweet temperaments, sparkles and bouncy karaoke tunes from the ’80s.

And you know what? It all adds up pretty well.

Oh, there are indeed quite a few toiletly, expel-a-cupcake giggles that parents will have to bear with here. And more characters are gobbled up by scrapbook-like versions of goofy monsters than you might expect.

But the music is peppy, the heroes are likeable, the bad guys get their comeuppance, and nothing is really too scary. In fact, this let’s-all-get-along tale is pretty much exactly the kind of felt-and-glitter silliness you might expect from a movie about something you used to keep in your pencil box.

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Bob Hoose

After spending more than two decades touring, directing, writing and producing for Christian theater and radio (most recently for Adventures in Odyssey, which he still contributes to), Bob joined the Plugged In staff to help us focus more heavily on video games. He is also one of our primary movie reviewers.