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Trolls World Tour is the first of a bold experiment Universal decided to undertake, whereupon former theatrical releases will instead be coming to Digital early, in an attempt to make money and entertain the public at home. While movies like Birds of Prey and Onward have jumped straight from theaters into homes, Universal and Dreamworks took this a step further, as Trolls World Tour has skipped its theatrical run and released on VOD instead.
The first Trolls movie was a massive hit, with Justin Timberlake's song "Can't Stop the Feeling" becoming an inescapable ear worm for years to follow. All eyes were on what director Walt Dohrn would do with the sequel, and the verdict is in. Critics have made their feelings about Trolls World Tour known, and you can see what they thought below.
CinemaBlend's Mike Reyes wasn't too fond of Trolls World Tour, rating it at two stars in his official review. While he thought the sequel had more of a story than its predecessor it still left much to be desired. In his words,
Trolls World Tour is definitely an experience that tops the sheer headache-inducing cheer and song belting that was Trolls. There’s a true intent to make a film with a story, and in the simplest sense, there’s an A to Z plotline folks can follow when taking it all in. But even with the best foot forward, this is a movie that still comes off as an absolute mess.
Trolls World Tour is obviously a movie for kids, all of whom are home from school indefinitely. Rolling Stone's Peter Travers applauded the timing of this groundbreaking new digital release in his review, saying:
It’s hard to imagine a juvenile audience working up much steam about pop’s appropriation of musical genres, but there’s no denying the fine vocal contributions from the likes of Kelly Clarkson, Mary J. Blige, Anderson Paak, and Gustavo Dudamel. Trolls World Tour hits the home market at exactly the right time, celebrating music as a joyful, community experience that excludes no one. Nothing wrong with a movie, even this kiddie piffle, that steps up and does that.
It sounds like Trolls World Tour isn't exactly Shakespeare, but it gets the job done and is coming out at the perfect time for its biggest audience: families. And while these video on demand movies are more expensive than a traditional rental, it ends up being cheaper than bringing an entire family to the movies, especially when concessions are factored in.
Ditto the nature of its release strategy, which is less “game-changing” and more a chance to avoid what likely would have been a theatrical box office downturn akin to The Secret Life of Pets 2, The Angry Birds Movie 2 and The LEGO Movie 2, all of which were as good if not better than their predecessors. Trolls 2 deserved a theatrical release, but it’s worth the $20 rental fee if you were going to see it anyway, especially since you’re not paying for concessions and parking. Trolls 2 deserved a theatrical release, but it’s worth the $20 rental fee if you were going to see it anyway, especially since you’re not paying for concessions and parking.
But despite the good timing of Trolls World Tour's release, critics are taking umbrage with the animated blockbuster's contents. Vanity Fair's Richard Lawson had a particular issue with the movie's dizzying pace, and its apparent lack of substance for both adults and kids watching. He said,
I suppose there is some character stuff to work with too, as Poppy finally realizes she’s very annoying and has a dangerously absolutist vision of trolldom, and Timberlake’s character, Branch, tries to figure out how to tell Poppy he’s in love with her. (So, in some gnarled form, these trolls do experience eros.) Though, that’s all secondary, tertiary even. The movie, directed by Dohrn and David P. Smith, moves too fast to dwell on any real pathos. Its very animation is barely grounded in a sense of reason or physics. There are no rules to these troll lives anymore—magic abounds, scenery and geography is utterly fluid—and thus those lives are rendered weightless, floating in some neon aether entirely disconnected from us.
Directors Walt Dohrn and David. P. Smith have also done a terrific job playing up the handmade aesthetic of the Trolls world. Moving between different tribes allows them to change up the visuals while still keeping everything under a crafted look. For example, when our heroes visit Country Music world, it has the look of an Old West town, but look closer and you can see that the ground is made of a patchwork quilt and the “hay” is actually just yellow pieces of yarn. This attention to detail makes the Trolls world feel unique and vibrant and worth exploring.
Where the best animated movies work for both adults and kids, Trolls doesn't really have much to offer either. It's too aimless and loud for grownups who might appreciate some of the references and vocal cameos, and while there's a lot to look at and hear in a jukebox musical manner, it's hard to imagine many kids understanding jokes at the expense of smooth jazz and yodeling.
This sentiment of complaint was also shared by The Wrap critic Yolanda Machado. While the visuals were praised, she thought it failed to bring anything substantial to the table. As she put it,
Returning director Walter Dohrn brings his prior Trolls experience in an attempt to build (with co-director David P. Smith, a TV vet) on what made the first film so popular — the colors and the music — but doesn’t bring much else to it. Dohrn and Smith have crafted an interesting extension of the universe, but that’s about it.
Now that the critics have spoken, it should be interesting to see how the public embraces Trolls World Tour. The timing is certainly interesting. Because while it's release will give families something to do while at home, parents may get sick of the movie being played on loop. This dynamic was previously seen when Frozen II hit Disney+ early.
Trolls World Tour is available to watch via video on demand now. Be sure to check out our 2020 release list to plan your next trip to the movies once theaters reopen.