When I was about seven years old, I had a small collection of Troll dolls. At some point between seven and seventeen, they went into a garage sale or donation bin, or perhaps were given away. I don’t really remember, since I suppose I didn’t have much attachment to them. They were fun to play with and brush their hair, and they were cute in a homely sort of way (those big eyes!). I don’t remember their names – and my toys tend to have names that I recall for years.
So it wasn’t really nostalgia that led me to watch Trolls (2016), which is based on the line of toys. It was more curiosity at seeing how they made the toys into a good story.
I was pleasantly surprised at how well the story works. It is not a complicated or difficult story. It uses a lot of clichés and well-known plot devices, but it uses them to great effect. The film is not innovative (at least not story-wise), but it is entertaining. For a young audience, it is perfect. While adults can scoff at whole-plot references, children can make the connections between stories – sometimes for the first time. This is a perfect family film, as no matter how old you are, the music is catchy, the colours are dazzling, the jokes are funny, and the plot surprisingly relevant.
In a nutshell, the Trolls are perpetually happy creatures (or at least, most of the time) whose home and lives are threatened by creatures that want to eat them in order to partake of their happiness. These creatures believe that without eating Trolls, they will never be happy. Long story short, the creatures come to realise that true happiness can only be found from within themselves, the Trolls are saved and allowed to return to their original home, and the main characters face up to their neuroses to be friends.
Despite it being somewhat obvious, the message that happiness cannot be consumed artificially (or artificially enforced) needs to be restated. Our modern culture tends to promote the opposite – one could even argue that the film is the type of thing one is supposed to “consume” in order to be happy.
Also shown in the film is that there is a difference been hope and happiness. While most of the Trolls seem to be too happy, it is in fact their optimism that allows them to be that way. They are filled with hope and they look on the bright side of life. Is it overwhelming? Absolutely, if you are not optimistic.
At the beginning of the film, neither the Trolls nor the creatures are emotionally balanced. By the end of the film, it may seem that everyone is happy, but it is not simply artificial happiness. There is a renewed sense of hope in all of the characters, and that hope is what drives their happiness. It is true joyfulness.
To paraphrase one of the main characters, it is important to know that life isn’t all sunshine and rainbows, but it is important to believe that it is mostly that way. After all, there is no rainbow without rain.