The wooden troll figures that Thomas Dam began carving and selling in the '50s had a great deal of folklore behind them but no cast of fixed characters. Though the Trolls have since been in TV specials, video games and a short-lived series, none of those have established what we might call canon, so DreamWorks' animated feature-length adaptation is starting from scratch. Trolls is a pretty standard piece of subpar DreamWorks product: loud and shiny, more than a tad frantic despite a generic set of characters, written and directed by in-house lifers. Princess Poppy (Anna Kendrick) is the ceaselessly upbeat monarch-to-be of an annoyingly peppy Troll kingdom. The happy creatures' enemies are the miserable Bergens, who eat the Trolls once a year -- it is, they say, the only way they can achieve happiness.
The Trolls finally flee, but their new home is discovered after 20 years of peace. Plucky Poppy must rescue them while teaching the Bergens that, with a little emotional willpower, anyone can find happiness within themselves.
The movie's insistence on pairing everyone off in heteronormative couples -- indeed, noting that that's the only place happiness comes from -- is predictably dogmatic. The jukebox-musical soundtrack is a nightmare assemblage of all the worst trends of current overproduced FM radio, some of which are far past their use-by date (check out those fake record scratches!), complete with an empowerment ballad moment ("Get Back Up Again") that's the most noxious manifestation of the film's palpably insincere optimism: Good things always happen because they do! None of this matters: The kids at the press screening seemed to dig it.