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Trolls World Tour Far Surpasses the First, Especially With Its Positive Message

4/5 strings.

trolls are scared

This weekend, my daughter asked outright to watch “the new Trolls movie,” which I guess means that the film’s advertising worked in getting to toddlers. I agreed because it was a holiday weekend, the world is weird right now, it meant we wouldn’t have to watch The Spiderwick Chronicles for the 20th time, and this one had The McElroys in it. To my surprise, what we got was a fun, creative movie with a pretty big message about diversity, leadership and even monoculture vs. cultural appropriation.

Who knew?

I wasn’t terribly excited about Trolls World Tour going in. The first Trolls is an incredibly dark movie that’s all about the trolls fighting against being eaten and it’s more about the horrible creatures called Bergens. I didn’t like it much (and neither does my kid, for reference). It’s a weird, trippy movie, but Trolls World Tour pretty much pretends it never happened. I haven’t seen a sequel so determined to ignore that it’s predecessor since Rise of Skywalker, but in this case, it actually works to the movie’s benefit.

Gone are the Bergens and darkness, and all that remains are the Trolls themselves, but it turns out they aren’t the only trolls. Our trolls are pop trolls, but there are techno, funk, classical, country and rock troll tribes throughout the world. The Hard Rock trolls, under the leadership of queen Barb (voiced by Rachel Bloom, who is amazing) are on a tour to gather the “six strings” that give the trolls their music and make everything Rock.

It’s a fun excuse for our Trolls–mainly Poppy (Anna Kendrick) and Branch (Justin Timberlake)–to take their own tour through different musical genres, but also for some not-so-subtle lessons for the little ones. Trolls World Tour has a lot to say, not just about how the world is boring when everything is the same, but about how good leaders have to listen to other people, and maybe most importantly, how the world is a better place when we celebrate that everyone is different.

Trolls World Tour makes a big point that music is never just one thing and that it never should be. The idea that there are only six kinds of music is pretty quickly rejected and refuted, and all the Trolls learn to appreciate and respect other genres. From mournful country ballads as delivered by a Kelly Clarkson troll to K-Pop and Reggaeton.

Now, spoiler warning for this paragraph, in case that’s an issue. But it’s revealed in the latter half of the movie that the six strings were separated not because the trolls were fighting about which music was best, but because the pop trolls were stealing music from all the other tribes and styles and passing it off as their own. That’s a pretty clear comment on (white) cultural appropriation and makes the very valid point that there’s a difference between appreciating and being inspired by something from another culture, and passing it off as your own without understanding it.

Trolls World Tour is very much an excuse for a hundred-minute song medley, but that’s fine. It’s a movie for kids and my kid loved it (we watched it twice in one day which pretty much made the $20 price tag worth it). The animation is bright and creative and I love the felt and glitter texture of the world, and the music is all really well done.

It’s a fun movie that didn’t need to have a message, but it’s there anyway and I like that among all the dancing and silliness and Ozzy Osborne cameos that only parents will appreciate, that kids are getting a clear message that it’s okay for things to be different, that it’s okay to be who you are and that we can be united by music, not because it’s all the same, but because it’s all music. And that’s a riff I can sing along to.

(image: Dreamworks/Universal)

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Jessica Mason (she/her) is a writer based in Portland, Oregon with a focus on fandom, queer representation, and amazing women in film and television. She's a trained lawyer and opera singer as well as a mom and author.