I have to admit, when Sam Rockwell shows up in “Trolls World Tour,” trotting out his George W. Bush drawl from “Vice,” crooning through a bar or two of “I Fall to Pieces,” I spat up my sangria.
He’s a hoot, and his character’s cowboy hat-wearing country music troll provides a comic kick in the keister for this otherwise candy-colored and James Corden-ized “tour” and lampoon of music styles and preferences.
Throw in a hilarious shot at “Smooth Jazz” — “so smooth and easy and AWFUL!” — a better one at country music, embodied by a big-haired Kelly Clarkson “death ballad” — “They must not know music’s supposed to make you HAPPY!” — and there’s almost enough here for parents to sit through this auto-tuned time-killer.
Featuring a Seussian design and color palette, this sequel to the surprise hit “Trolls” brings back a couple of those pop music Smurfs-by-any-Other-Name characters, and sends them on a quest to prevent the fascist takeover of music by heavy metal — “Rock.”
Queen Poppy (Anna Kendrick) and her adoring aide and advisor, forever in the “Friend Zone” Branch (Justin Timberlake) set out to meet, and then foil the evil plot of punk-metal Queen Barb (Rachel Bloom of “Crazy Ex Girlfriend”). She’s out to steal the other five strings from the Great Guitar of Harmony.
She’s got “Rock.” She takes the “Techno” string from the deep-sea bio-luminescent trolls without a fight (Too stoned?) and “Classical.” She wants “Pop” and “Funk” and “Country.”
Barb wants to hit that one “Power Chord” that unites the world under the tattoo and Gibson Flying V electric guitar banner of “Rock.”
And once you hear Bloom’s cover of “Crazy Train” and the amusingly enfeebled mumbling of its author, Ozzy Osborne (playing her dad), you get it. Nobody would listen to this unless it was their only choice, right? Although, truth be told, she makes “Crazy Train” almost listenable.
So we drop in on Symphonyville, Lonesome Flats, Funkytown, etc., with dips into K-Pop, Reggaeton and yodeling — as high-handed Poppy tries to head off disaster and Save the Strings without listening to a word of protest from Branch.
A tag team of screenwriters came up with this scenario, a kiddie movie that debates “What’s more important than harmony?” and accepting “differences” in music taste, “Violence never solves a problem” but “How’re we gonna HUG our way out of this?”
It’s utterly harmless, even in its subtexts — that hip hop and funk are where ALL music comes together. If the kids are going stir crazy, give it a download.
Grown-up viewers? We’re allowed to grind our teeth on the annoying omnipresence of autotune — occasionally played for a laugh, often a crutch to get our leads on the same pitch — and James Corden, who is becoming a brand name for bloke-who-shows-up-everywhere and insists on singing.
He doesn’t do for “Trolls” what he did for “Cats.” But…
MPAA Rating: PG for some mild rude humor
Cast: The voices of Anna Kendrick, Justin Timberlake, Rachel Bloom, Keenan Thompson, Kelly Clarkson, James Corden, George Clinton, Mary J. Blige, J. Balvin, Ozzy Osborne, and Sam Rockwell
Credits: Directed by Walter Dohrn and Daniel B. Smith, script by Jonathan Aibel, Maya Forbes, Glenn Berger, Elizabeth Tibbett and Wallace Wolodarsky. A Universal release.
Running time: 1:31