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One of the less expected achievements of 21st Century cinema is getting pretty good at making movies out of scraps of intellectual property that aren’t even stories. As I confidently explained in my review of the first Pirates of the Caribbean movie:

“Pirates” is inspired by an amusement park ride. A very good amusement park ride indeed, but not something that the world has been crying out to see on screen.

Little did I know …

Trolls is the monetization of those hideous looking toys for girls invented by Danish fisherman Thomas Dam as a 1959 Christmas present for his daughter.

Trolls is actually pretty good, probably even better than Angry Birds, although it’s a little hard to compare girl movies to boy movies. It’s a musical, which is usually a good idea for an animated film. Ana Kendrick (Pitch Perfect) and Justin Timberlake have some chemistry as the voice leads. Visually, it looks like a $125 million update of one of those Sid and Marty Krofft psychedelic freakout children’s shows from 1970:

 
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  1. Hey, don’t knock Sid & Marty Kroft! Sometimes when you wax eloquent about the lost paradise that was the 70s SoCal of your youth, I sometimes have “Sigmund and the Sea Monsters” in my head as I imagine the perfect beach community in the Nixon-Ford years. And Marshall, Will and Holly of “Land of the Lost” as the kind of resilient, totally non-dysfunctional family in the face of dark challenges, e.g. losing their mother, getting cast into another dimension where dinosaurs live.

  2. Didn’t Sid and Marty have a secret house somewhere with custom furniture , the chairs of which were a mold pulled off of Raquel Welch’s ass? I’m serious:they apparently were.

  3. Looks clever and well-made..

  4. A disappointing post. I was looking forward to a feisty attack on your commentators!

  5. H.R. Puffnstuff. Was that a reference to smoking weed? Puff the magic dragon? Anyone?

    • Replies: @celt darnell
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dFCwtoxX60g
  6. I saw this movie one day before the election with my great niece. Afterwards I had dinner w/my nephew in law & talked about the election. I was not exactly ecstatic over Trump’s chances while he felt fairly certain that Trump had a good chance if he won Pennsylvania. I’m a pessimist about these things, my nephew in law is in his late 20’s, owns his own business & was admirably optimistic about Trump’s chances. He was right, Trump won PA & went onto win the election. The movie was okay too.

  7. Doesn’t Tiny Dick…er Duck look cute in pink.

  8. I don’t understand why producers insist on making tiresome superhero epics and boring films about old fads. It is almost as if they have no knowledge of history or literature.

    I can see a Joan of Arc missive doing well in this climate (Womyn!). Or even a film about Hannibal crossing the Alps (refugees from N Africa are all the rage). They could even make an Adventures of Huck Finn that would have the audience gasp and squirm every time Huck calls his companion N-Jim. Hedda Gabler adapted to UVA’s rape case would be the perfect analogy as well. Isn’t it also a fitting time for a new World War I, anti-war movie about the savagery of the meat grinder and the death of western civilization?

    So many options and we get “Trolls”

    • Replies: @With the thoughts you'd be thinkin
    Probably because unlike superhero films, the films you suggested have less merchandising opportunities, both due to the subjects and presumably also due to intellectual property. Also big budget films try to do well globally, nowadays so they can't alienate audiences and probably are more generic to fit in culturally. Also budget for some of the superhero films are pretty big so they probably can't take that many risks.
  9. Add I thought this was about comments here..

  10. Looks stupid, per the usual for “entertainment” fodder for the lumpenproletariat that ain’t got jobs.

  11. “Scraps of intellectual property.”

    Excellent.

  12. My wife insists for some reason I don’t understand on foisting the trolls toys on my four year old daughter, who seems responsive. Should I take my wife and daughter to see the movie or not?

    “I can see a Joan of Arc missive doing well in this climate”

    George Bernard Shaw wrote a pretty good play about Joan of Arc so you could just use that as the first draft of the screenplay. His plays have been reasonably successful in being turned into movies, and in one case a musical. For that matter any of the Ibsen plays would make great movies, once the Norway specific stuff is removed.

  13. A bit hard to believe that the below mentioned should really have been children shows in the 70ies. Didn’t know this. There have been real Mothers of Invention at work: Feak out!

    Sid and Marty Krofft psychedelic freakout children’s shows from 1970

    The Trolls clips look like something, that has no room left for the viewer’s fantasy. But I judge only from the clips.

    The connection you make betweeen the too makes sense.

  14. @Yak-15
    I don't understand why producers insist on making tiresome superhero epics and boring films about old fads. It is almost as if they have no knowledge of history or literature.

    I can see a Joan of Arc missive doing well in this climate (Womyn!). Or even a film about Hannibal crossing the Alps (refugees from N Africa are all the rage). They could even make an Adventures of Huck Finn that would have the audience gasp and squirm every time Huck calls his companion N-Jim. Hedda Gabler adapted to UVA's rape case would be the perfect analogy as well. Isn't it also a fitting time for a new World War I, anti-war movie about the savagery of the meat grinder and the death of western civilization?

    So many options and we get "Trolls"

    Probably because unlike superhero films, the films you suggested have less merchandising opportunities, both due to the subjects and presumably also due to intellectual property. Also big budget films try to do well globally, nowadays so they can’t alienate audiences and probably are more generic to fit in culturally. Also budget for some of the superhero films are pretty big so they probably can’t take that many risks.

  15. OT

    Just listening to BBC News – “Donald Trump’s been made an honorary Cossack”

    • Replies: @BenKenobi
    Oh dear, that means the Cossacks will soon tear through the shtetl!

    Oy gevalt!
    , @snorlax
    5/10 trolling — if they really want to get some entertaining reax they should make Bibi one.
  16. @Anonymous Nephew
    OT

    Just listening to BBC News - "Donald Trump's been made an honorary Cossack"

    https://twitter.com/BBCSteveR/status/796642271039029248

    Oh dear, that means the Cossacks will soon tear through the shtetl!

    Oy gevalt!

  17. Tiny Duck, she’s probably drinking a couple of bottles of wine a day for the last 11 days, along with mopping up her tears with her 2 cats. Soggy pussys.

    (((Owen))) is feeling guilty because he thinks that makes him better, smarter, more educated, than the rest of us….

    I remember seeing troll dolls at Spencer’s??? Schlocky gift store at the local mall. 1965 or 66. I did wonder who came up with those.

  18. I can’t help but notice that these trolls look a lot cuter and less hideous than the ones that we are all familiar with.

    • Replies: @Father O'Hara
    Hillary and Huma?
    , @WowJustWow
    The trolls (and other characters) in the movie have no space between their eyes. Utterly terrible character design, although the bar is pretty low when it comes to contemporary 3-D animation. Just because a movie is for children doesn't mean it has to look like it was designed by children.
  19. Trolls seems to me to be greatest example of the disenfranchisement of talented voice actors in major animated films. Anna Kendrick and Justine Timberlake have some of the least remarkable voices in all of Hollywood (They’re not even trying to do character voices either, those are just their normal speaking voices) and they were chosen as the leads despite being obviously more expensive and less available.

    All because they feel they need them to market the film on talk shows. Why not have the poorly-paid animators or director go and talk about making the the film on talk shows, bring on models of the characters. That is always more interesting as marketing than inane anecdotes of standing in a booth and reading lines.

    Good voice actors always elevate things and make characters more real. Look at ATHF.

    • Replies: @Steve Sailer
    "Shrek 4" let their best animator voice the villain he had created rather than hire an expensive celebrity to do it. He was quite good at it.

    In defense of Ana Kendrick and Justin Timberlake, much of the plot revolves around singing and they are both fine singers. So, in promoting the movie on TV, they can credibly perform songs from it on TV. Moreover, Timberlake composed a song for the movie, which became a radio hit before the movie came out, building momentum for the movie.

    , @william munny
    I feel this way about celebrities writing children's books.
    , @Glaivester
    Actually, Timberlake has shown evidence that he is able to be a good voice actor when he isn't just using his normal speaking voice. He did a very good job of Boo-Boo in the Yogi movie.
  20. Is this movie about Tiny Cuck?

  21. Oh, great…

    Now I don’t have any valid excuse not to get the youngest one to see Tiny Duck’s comrades on celluloid.

  22. I have a problem with the advertisements for this movie. It’s suppose to be a children’s movie right? What is the plot, what is the conflict? The adverts depict a society of trolls whose main objective seems to be to “party the hardest.” I have a huge problem with that, I don’t want children to think “partying the hardest,” is a constructive thing.

  23. I’m also grossed out by this weird style of cgi animation. Talk about uncanny valley. Toy story was OK because the plasticy sheen of cgi rendering made the character look like real toys. But anything that has come after that is disgusting and offputting.

    • Replies: @snorlax
    My theory for why all children's movies are CGI these days is because small children associate 2D animation with the Disney films, with their traumatizing scenes of parents dying and terrifying (to the under-7 set) villains.

    The expense explanation doesn't really make sense — CGI is marginally less expensive than hand-drawn animation, but it's 100–1000x more expensive than 2D computer animation (Simpsons, South Park, Family Guy — all the animation on television nowadays).

  24. That was a pretty good rendition of that Paul Simon tune.

    The 70’s and 80’s kids’ shows could get very weird in premise or concept. As I’ve said before, the strangest thing programmers did back then was give foul mouthed, Afro-centric, drug addicted human torch Richard Pryor his own show. And, as I recall, very few parents back then made much of a deal about it.

    • Replies: @Yojimbo/Zatoichi
    It wasn't all that long, it sank like a stone. On the other hand, Bill Cosby was front and center in the '70's megahit for kids, Fat Albert and Friends. Also, he started doing Picture Pages with kids. America further welcomed him with open arms later with the Cosby Show.

    Funny how that works. Perhaps if Pryor's act had been more like Cosby, he'd have been crowned The king of the mainstream by White America.
  25. @Altai
    Trolls seems to me to be greatest example of the disenfranchisement of talented voice actors in major animated films. Anna Kendrick and Justine Timberlake have some of the least remarkable voices in all of Hollywood (They're not even trying to do character voices either, those are just their normal speaking voices) and they were chosen as the leads despite being obviously more expensive and less available.

    All because they feel they need them to market the film on talk shows. Why not have the poorly-paid animators or director go and talk about making the the film on talk shows, bring on models of the characters. That is always more interesting as marketing than inane anecdotes of standing in a booth and reading lines.

    Good voice actors always elevate things and make characters more real. Look at ATHF.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DIb4ORefBaE

    “Shrek 4” let their best animator voice the villain he had created rather than hire an expensive celebrity to do it. He was quite good at it.

    In defense of Ana Kendrick and Justin Timberlake, much of the plot revolves around singing and they are both fine singers. So, in promoting the movie on TV, they can credibly perform songs from it on TV. Moreover, Timberlake composed a song for the movie, which became a radio hit before the movie came out, building momentum for the movie.

  26. @Glaivester
    I can't help but notice that these trolls look a lot cuter and less hideous than the ones that we are all familiar with.

    Hillary and Huma?

  27. @Anonymous Nephew
    OT

    Just listening to BBC News - "Donald Trump's been made an honorary Cossack"

    https://twitter.com/BBCSteveR/status/796642271039029248

    5/10 trolling — if they really want to get some entertaining reax they should make Bibi one.

  28. Speaking of trolls, how do you guys feel that the UN is going to shut down your garbage hate through internet regulations?

    Fake news will not be allowed to exist any longer

    • Replies: @bored identity
    In the immortal words of tovarisch Koba:

    “The UN! How many divisions have they got?”
    , @bored identity



    "...Fake news will not be allowed to exist any longer."

     

    Why even swinging your tiny duck over such irrelevant issue?!

    Keep in mind that the fake news are... fake, so in reality, they already don't exist.
    , @celt darnell
    Fake troll alert!
  29. @J1234
    That was a pretty good rendition of that Paul Simon tune.

    The 70's and 80's kids' shows could get very weird in premise or concept. As I've said before, the strangest thing programmers did back then was give foul mouthed, Afro-centric, drug addicted human torch Richard Pryor his own show. And, as I recall, very few parents back then made much of a deal about it.

    It wasn’t all that long, it sank like a stone. On the other hand, Bill Cosby was front and center in the ’70’s megahit for kids, Fat Albert and Friends. Also, he started doing Picture Pages with kids. America further welcomed him with open arms later with the Cosby Show.

    Funny how that works. Perhaps if Pryor’s act had been more like Cosby, he’d have been crowned The king of the mainstream by White America.

  30. Another example of Hollywood erasing white faces from white culture.

  31. @Kyle
    I'm also grossed out by this weird style of cgi animation. Talk about uncanny valley. Toy story was OK because the plasticy sheen of cgi rendering made the character look like real toys. But anything that has come after that is disgusting and offputting.

    My theory for why all children’s movies are CGI these days is because small children associate 2D animation with the Disney films, with their traumatizing scenes of parents dying and terrifying (to the under-7 set) villains.

    The expense explanation doesn’t really make sense — CGI is marginally less expensive than hand-drawn animation, but it’s 100–1000x more expensive than 2D computer animation (Simpsons, South Park, Family Guy — all the animation on television nowadays).

  32. OT- but in celebrity news today Kanye West said, though he didn’t vote this year, he would have voted for Trump and then went on to describe how much he liked Trump’s style. Unlike on-again/off-againTrump supporter Azealia Banks, who’s a B-minus/C-plus sort of celebrity, Kayne is definitely A-list: one of the biggest rappers out there (definitely Top 3, if not Top 2) and- of course- also now famous for being Mr. Kim Kardashian.

    I’ll refrain from being a goon and making too much of this, but it is satisfying from a sort of dotting-the-I’s, crossing-the-T’s perpsective that in addition to being right about the big picture (viability of the Sailer Strategy, Trump’s status as the candidate best suited to take on Hilary), many of us were also right about Trump’s style appealing to blacks (the majority of them at least, if not the overeducated, Ink Well-summering, professoinal activist sort like Obama). Of course this came to late to do Trump much good during the election, but on the other hand don’t forget Hilary had more support among blacks in ’08 well into the primaries. It was only when Obama emerged as a truly viable candidate that support for him among blacks skyrocketed. So again, the Big Man phenomenon. Not sure how much this helps our President in the long-term (against a black candidate in 2020 I think any support he gets now will melt away) but it sure is fun watching liberal tie themslves in knots trying to explain this.

  33. @Tiny Duck
    Speaking of trolls, how do you guys feel that the UN is going to shut down your garbage hate through internet regulations?

    Fake news will not be allowed to exist any longer

    In the immortal words of tovarisch Koba:

    “The UN! How many divisions have they got?”

    • Replies: @snorlax
    Actually a decent amount, but they're mostly Pakistani.

    I imagine there's all sorts of Deep State shenanigans surrounding the Blue Helmets.

  34. @Tiny Duck
    Speaking of trolls, how do you guys feel that the UN is going to shut down your garbage hate through internet regulations?

    Fake news will not be allowed to exist any longer

    “…Fake news will not be allowed to exist any longer.”

    Why even swinging your tiny duck over such irrelevant issue?!

    Keep in mind that the fake news are… fake, so in reality, they already don’t exist.

  35. @bored identity
    In the immortal words of tovarisch Koba:

    “The UN! How many divisions have they got?”

    Actually a decent amount, but they’re mostly Pakistani.

    I imagine there’s all sorts of Deep State shenanigans surrounding the Blue Helmets.

  36. @Altai
    Trolls seems to me to be greatest example of the disenfranchisement of talented voice actors in major animated films. Anna Kendrick and Justine Timberlake have some of the least remarkable voices in all of Hollywood (They're not even trying to do character voices either, those are just their normal speaking voices) and they were chosen as the leads despite being obviously more expensive and less available.

    All because they feel they need them to market the film on talk shows. Why not have the poorly-paid animators or director go and talk about making the the film on talk shows, bring on models of the characters. That is always more interesting as marketing than inane anecdotes of standing in a booth and reading lines.

    Good voice actors always elevate things and make characters more real. Look at ATHF.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DIb4ORefBaE

    I feel this way about celebrities writing children’s books.

  37. @Kyle a
    H.R. Puffnstuff. Was that a reference to smoking weed? Puff the magic dragon? Anyone?

  38. @Tiny Duck
    Speaking of trolls, how do you guys feel that the UN is going to shut down your garbage hate through internet regulations?

    Fake news will not be allowed to exist any longer

    Fake troll alert!

  39. one of those Sid and Marty Krofft psychedelic freakout children’s shows from 1970

    I was obsessed for a year or so with Lidsville:

  40. @Altai
    Trolls seems to me to be greatest example of the disenfranchisement of talented voice actors in major animated films. Anna Kendrick and Justine Timberlake have some of the least remarkable voices in all of Hollywood (They're not even trying to do character voices either, those are just their normal speaking voices) and they were chosen as the leads despite being obviously more expensive and less available.

    All because they feel they need them to market the film on talk shows. Why not have the poorly-paid animators or director go and talk about making the the film on talk shows, bring on models of the characters. That is always more interesting as marketing than inane anecdotes of standing in a booth and reading lines.

    Good voice actors always elevate things and make characters more real. Look at ATHF.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DIb4ORefBaE

    Actually, Timberlake has shown evidence that he is able to be a good voice actor when he isn’t just using his normal speaking voice. He did a very good job of Boo-Boo in the Yogi movie.

  41. Zooey Deschanel is one of the voices in this movie. The trailer opens with “Dream” which reminded me of this:

  42. Generally, it’s not a good idea to bet on Justin Timberlake failing at something he really wants to accomplish.

  43. Slightly OT but quite fun:

    Flyers advertising the Alt-Right appear in mailboxes in Vancouver suburb and Chinese colony Richmond, BC.

    But a “black guy” was the one spotted distributing the material.

    Huh!

    picture of flyer:
    http://www.news1130.com/2016/11/17/racist-flyer-circulating-richmond/

    article in the Vancouver Surrender with comments and a few brave defenders:
    http://vancouversun.com/news/local-news/racist-flyers-turn-up-in-richmond-mailboxes

  44. Anonymous [AKA "False balance"] says:

    Why has the iSteve editorial staff so far failed to pass some solemn comments on the death of Canadian para-musician Leonard Cohen (cuz no one saw that coming)? I mean, he was easily like the Yuval Levin of adult-contemporary dirtbag crooners, before the format even existed.

    • Replies: @Steve Sailer
    I missed Leonard Cohen when I was young. I vaguely recall dropping by the college radio station and a DJ telling me I should listen to Leonard Cohen. So I had my opportunity, but I never got around to it, so I don't have anything to say.
    , @Jenner Ickham Errican
    There were a couple of comments. (#32, #34, etc.)
  45. @Anonymous
    Why has the iSteve editorial staff so far failed to pass some solemn comments on the death of Canadian para-musician Leonard Cohen (cuz no one saw that coming)? I mean, he was easily like the Yuval Levin of adult-contemporary dirtbag crooners, before the format even existed.

    I missed Leonard Cohen when I was young. I vaguely recall dropping by the college radio station and a DJ telling me I should listen to Leonard Cohen. So I had my opportunity, but I never got around to it, so I don’t have anything to say.

  46. The Mr. Show clip brought me to the realization that the weird 70s children’s show style is one I’m familiar with, but exclusively through parodies. Reminds me of Wonder Showmen, although that was more of a Sesame Street-style stoner parody.

    • Replies: @Steve Sailer
    It's not uncommon for genres only to be remembered through their parodies. For example, nobody other than Spanish Literature Ph.D.'s reads the romances that Cervantes parodied in Don Quixote.
  47. @ATX Hipster
    The Mr. Show clip brought me to the realization that the weird 70s children's show style is one I'm familiar with, but exclusively through parodies. Reminds me of Wonder Showmen, although that was more of a Sesame Street-style stoner parody.

    It’s not uncommon for genres only to be remembered through their parodies. For example, nobody other than Spanish Literature Ph.D.’s reads the romances that Cervantes parodied in Don Quixote.

    • Replies: @Dieter Kief
    It's the same with Goethes Faust. "Nobody other than" German "literature Ph.D.'s reads" the folk-books on Faust anymore. It's all Goethe now - and the Stones occasionally (Sympathy For The Devil) - and Steve Bannon, by the way, in Wolff's Hollywood-Reporter portrait: Like Goethe in Faust, he explicitly speaks about the dark forces, which will eventually help - - create good things (a high-speed rail-system?).
  48. @Steve Sailer
    It's not uncommon for genres only to be remembered through their parodies. For example, nobody other than Spanish Literature Ph.D.'s reads the romances that Cervantes parodied in Don Quixote.

    It’s the same with Goethes Faust. “Nobody other than” German “literature Ph.D.’s reads” the folk-books on Faust anymore. It’s all Goethe now – and the Stones occasionally (Sympathy For The Devil) – and Steve Bannon, by the way, in Wolff’s Hollywood-Reporter portrait: Like Goethe in Faust, he explicitly speaks about the dark forces, which will eventually help – – create good things (a high-speed rail-system?).

  49. @Glaivester
    I can't help but notice that these trolls look a lot cuter and less hideous than the ones that we are all familiar with.

    The trolls (and other characters) in the movie have no space between their eyes. Utterly terrible character design, although the bar is pretty low when it comes to contemporary 3-D animation. Just because a movie is for children doesn’t mean it has to look like it was designed by children.

  50. This is the first iSteve post I can enjoy with my girlfriend (well, the first video anyway).

    You’re selling out, Steve 😀

  51. @Anonymous
    Why has the iSteve editorial staff so far failed to pass some solemn comments on the death of Canadian para-musician Leonard Cohen (cuz no one saw that coming)? I mean, he was easily like the Yuval Levin of adult-contemporary dirtbag crooners, before the format even existed.

    There were a couple of comments. (#32, #34, etc.)

  52. Although some have called I am Charlotte Simmons a can`t-put-it-down book, personally, I had to put it down every 15 minutes or so. I felt so bad for the young characters as they heartbreakingly learn how the world works.

    That’s a great review, and you make the usually unheard but obviously claim that great artists are half male half female at least mentally.
    But nobody in I am Charlotte Simmons learns how the world works. There’s no trace of consciousness. They are free-will-less automata (the topic of free well, and Delgado’s theories about how the mind works are treated explicitly in the book).
    It’s much more heart-breaking, or rather vanity-crushing for the reader than the characters.

    I also noticed he gives outer and inner parts to all characters: sometimes we see them talk, act, sometimes we see them think.
    Not Hoyt Thorpe; he is all instinct, primal. He acts, he doesn’t think.

    As for the Bonfire being ahead of its time, the most strikingly predictive aspect to it is the decadence of the white people and their loss of any will to fight, at least as a group of people. The protagonist is left alone.
    And if he starts to hit the mob of black assailants blows in a surreal fashion, Wolfe may have wanted to tell us that be a dream rather than a reasonable prediction (as if to say: OK, now we see how this ends. Just let’s have fun with the ending, and imagine a different outcome, a fantastic one).

    I think looking at Nobel laureates in the last tens of years, seeing some names in the list and not seeing Wolfe’s brings to mind one or two not really merry thoughts.
    But that’s how it works.

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