Why Do I Like the Trolls Movie? [Warning: Spoilers]

why do i like the trolls movie

This one. The one modeled after the creepy children’s toy and featuring famous singers.

This is a serious question. I saw the Trolls movie a week or two ago, and I keep getting the urge to watch it again – one problem: I have no idea why! I’ve been asking myself all week, “Why do I like the Trolls movie?” And I don’t know the answer. I DON’T KNOW. (It’s sooo weird.)

If you’re new to this blog, you’re probably wondering why I’m freaking out about this. Well, the truth is that I’m a super-analytical dork, especially with writing-related stuff. So if I like something, I usually know why. In fact, I can generally break down why into a detailed article (and sometimes do). In this case, I find myself enjoying the movie, multiple times, without knowing why.

So What’s So Great About the Trolls Movie?

That’s the thing – it isn’t a great movie. No, I’m sorry, but it’s not. It has plot flaws. It has flat characters. It has odd/even creepy hidden messages (casually setting someone on fire, anyone?).

Honestly, it’s easier to think of reasons why I shouldn’t like it.

Why I Shouldn’t Like the Trolls Movie

At first glance, there is a lot of 2-dimensionality going on with this story. 2D characters (say, everybody except the main 4 characters…who only start to flesh out halfway through the film). Holes in the plot, unanswered questions, and logical fallacies (see bel0w).

There are also some seriously creepy and/or disturbing underlying messages being sent. The characters accept them, so we focus on the storyline and don’t really dig deeper. Once you start digging deeper, however, oh my.

Here are some specifics (if you don’t want spoilers, skip ALL the bullet points in the article, k?). These are in no particular order.

  • Stereotypical Colors: Poppy is pink, and Branch is blue. Seriously? Did you have to go with such stereotypical boy-girl colors?
  • Cheap Jokes: The butt pun, glitter farts, and every one-liner by a background character (usually Cooper) that shows zero understanding of the situation: that’s what we call cheap shots, folks.
  • Genocide/Cannibalism: The primary concept of the story is that the Bergens trapped an entire race of PEOPLE and ate them once a year. We’re talking slow genocide here. Or treating a race of people like cattle – pretty disturbing, yeah?
  • Sociopathic Actions: Cooper casually sets Chef on fire, doesn’t even look at what he’s done, and then smiles into the camera. WTH? That’s seriously disturbing right there. And I did not need visions of sociopathic trolls to help me not sleep.
  • Voice Acting Ethnicities: Speaking of Cooper, did anyone pay attention to the distribution of ethnicities in the voice acting? Anyone else feel slightly uncomfortable with that? (Or worse?) Or am I being oversensitive?
  • Breaking the 4th Wall Badly: Remember those cheap shots? Those one-liners where Cooper grins into the camera? That’s breaking the 4th wall, but the story isn’t getting anything out of it. Except a cheap joke.
  • Dark & Disturbing: Children trolls playing by jumping in and out of steel traps. Oh, and what about the Bergen who is committing suicide by burying himself alive? That’s pretty dark and disturbing. “Here lies me.”
    • Creepiness: Some of the hugging gets creepy. Like the horde advancing on Branch as he screams. What the other people say as they hug him, the glitter guy hugging himself, the creepy cloud joining a hug without being invited, etc. Hugs are great – unless they’re from someone you don’t want a hug from. Then, they’re creepy or frightening (or a type of assault… just sayin’).

So I could stop there and still have plenty of reasons to not like the movie, right? OR… I could go on and list every uncomfortable or less-than-amazingly written moment. And that’s not even including the broken promises.

There are lot of broken promises. Since this blog is about writing, I guess I should talk about some of those.

Broken Promises

They set up rules for the world, but then they break them. Or kind of break them (actions that don’t entirely make sense with those rules).

Now, I know that suspension of disbelief is needed for movies, especially animated movies. I don’t have a problem with that. I’m pretty good about suspending my disbelief. Usually. Unless I’m slapped in the face by contradictions or questions. In this movie, I felt slapped in the face by them sometimes. Other times, they were like being poked in the shoulder (less distracting but still).

  • The Chef reveals her plan to take over the kingdom, and then those plans are basically ignored. We get a little dramatic irony from time to time, but the captured trolls who heard it never even reveal it, let alone do anything about it. (Plus, if she’s going to feed the others all of the trolls that Trollstice, how does she plan to continue feeding them trolls?)
  • Why did the Bergens only eat trolls once a year? They don’t seem that bright or good at self-control. It really doesn’t fit with the rest of their established background or character. And who would willingly be happy only once a year?
  • The Bergens firmly believe they can’t be happy without eating a troll. Even after a troll talks to them and raises a little doubt in that theory, I don’t see them ignoring dozens of tasty snacks of happiness falling down around them. Does that seem believable to you? I mean, even if they think they might be able to be happy without eating trolls, they know that eating trolls makes them happy. And they’ve missed eating them for a long time. That’s like a dieting person watching their favorite dessert dance around in front of them in scores and having no urge to eat it (not gonna happen).
  • Why do the Bergens have a roller rink or pizza if they don’t have fun? That totally confuses me and breaks from the groundwork and characterization.
  • Think about all the dangers Poppy faces is less than a day. Can you see her father getting the entire race of trolls through those safely? There’s no way. Most of them would’ve been eaten before they ever found their new home.
  • If trolls are so nice and loving, how come nobody took care of Branch or comforted him after his grandmother’s death? How come nobody knew? And why didn’t any of the other trolls whose relatives got eaten react similarly? Didn’t they care?
  • If Bergens don’t know how to sing, then how did Bridgette learn? She knew how to sing before even meeting trolls. I’m cool with the idea that she’s an anomaly, but if the main idea behind the climax is that any of the Bergens can be happy, wouldn’t there be a subgroup that found it on their own? Like an underground society of secretly happy Bergen?

There are plenty more, but that’s more than enough for our purposes. And more than enough to turn someone off the move. Yet I keep wanting to watch it. It’s baffling.

Why I Should Like the Trolls Movie

There are some obvious answers:

  • The music: it’s upbeat and fun (mostly), and it’s integrated very well with the story.
  • The main characters: Poppy, Branch, Bridgette, and Gristle are fun, likable characters. They have depth (eventually), and they aren’t obvious for the most part (or at least, not as obvious as the other characters).
  • The plot: It’s not entirely unpredictable, but it doesn’t go where you’d immediately expect it to go. There are some nice twists and turns.
  • The foreshadowing and irony: “Someday, when the Bergens find us, and the survival of every troll is in your hands, I sure hope the answer is singing, dancing, and hugging ’cause that’s all you know how to do!” Foreshadowing and dramatic irony in one. Nice.
  • Some dialogue: There is a witty, sarcastic trend to some of the dialogue that is fun. I say “some” because it’s mostly the dialogue of the main characters and not the background trolls: “A man’s bib.”
  • My dark, twisted sense of humor: So a lot of that dark, twisted stuff that makes the movie creepy if you think about it also makes the movie funny if you don’t think about it (assuming you’re a bit wrong already).
  • The fuzziness: Ok, no, I don’t have a thing for fuzz. But textures have long been one of the biggest challenges of animation. To do an entire movie that’s mostly the texture of felt? With all that hair? Not the easiest thing in the world. So that’s impressive.
  • The frog rooster: What? It’s funny!
  • The main message: Happiness is inside all of us, and sometimes, we need help finding it. I think that’s a good message (a bit more useful than “love conquers all” and less irritating than “Happiness is a choice.”).

Then, there are the not-so-obvious answers. The ones I had to think about.

  • Characters like Smidge who break some stereotypes for gender colors, styles, and sounds.
  • The fact that the prologue/history is actually told from Poppy’s perspective (and scrapbook). I didn’t really think about it at first, but having it told from her point of view instead of a narrator’s makes all the difference in the world. If Poppy’s telling it, it can be prejudiced or flawed. So some of those broken promises can be resolved by the fact that the story as Poppy knows it being incomplete or slanted.
  • The way the flatness of the characters acts as a strange kind of characterization (Fiyero might call it “deeply shallow.”). Having few or no thoughts beyond singing/dancing/hugging/fun is established as a troll trait. So by being oblivious to a lot of what’s going on, the trolls are actually following the established characterization. The only problem with this is the fact that Poppy and Branch are pretty smart – when they choose to think. Maybe, it’s like Legally Blonde and doing what’s expected (I haven’t quite resolved this thought…).
  • The group’s mockery of Branch, King Peppy’s command to flee, and Creek’s betrayal. The fact that the trolls can be flawed and selfish makes them more human and interesting despite their otherwise shallow mentality.

I think it’s these contradictions that’s giving me trouble analyzing my response – the very flatness of the characters is their rounding (if that makes sense to anyone), the lines are alternately witty or almost annoyingly oblivious, and the humor is spot on or disturbingly creepy.

What can I say? It’s a movie of contrasts. And I’m listening to it in the background as I write.

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4 Christmas Stories You’ve Probably Never Heard of

Christmas stories silly cat with a Christmas tree

It was kind of hard to find a picture that meshes the story types, but I think this works.

Bloggers who emphasize writing and reading have a tendency to write about good holiday books (A.K.A. Christmas stories) when it gets close to December 25th. I can’t blame them (I’m just as guilty); however, I’ve noticed that lists like “The Twelve Books of Christmas” often overlook stories that I, personally, consider to be holiday gems. Don’t get me wrong: I like A Christmas Carol and How the Grinch Stole Christmas as well as the next person. But here are 4 Christmas stories you’ve probably never heard of – at least not from the traditional book lists.

My 4 Favorite Christmas Stories You’ve Probably Never Heard of

Sweet Christmas Stories

If you’re observant (and I like to think that you are), you’ll notice that these two stories have a couple of things in common. Let’s just say that I liked cats and happy endings as a child (Ok. I’m still a child.).

 1. The Christmas Cat by Efner Tudor Holmes

A poor cat is struggling through the snow even as a young boy worries that Santa won’t make it through the snow storm. If you think Santa arranges a happy ending for both, you’re right, which is, honestly, exactly what most children want in a story. Especially a Christmas story. The lovely drawings and interesting portrayal of Santa Claus make this book stand out and make the story extra enthralling and heart-warming.

2. “The Christmas Day Kitten” from James Herriot’s Treasury for Children

A wonderfully unique title, I know; however, this compilation of short stories was one of my favorites growing up, and while this particular story is extra appropriate to Christmas time, the rest are just as touching, amusing, and inspiring.

Each story features the vet (James Herriot) and his experience with a special animal. Dogs, cats, horses, and even cows share the spotlight in delightful stories full of each animal’s individual character (not to mention their owners!). The rich paintings bring the stories to life in ways no child (and few adults) can resist. It’s a charming book for any time of the year, but the hope and kindness that binds the stories together is especially appropriate at Christmas.

Silly Christmas Stories

So… apparently, I have two sides: sweet with happy endings for animals or silly with plenty of plays on words, especially with parodies. These two books fall in the latter category (but you knew that).

3. Cajun Night Before Christmas by Trosclair

Technically, our copy of this book belongs to my parents (Hmm… I need to get one…), but not only are the drawings fun and interesting to a child, the dialect of the writing is absolutely irresistible! I remember reading it aloud to myself, trying to get the accent right from the writing. I doubt I ever did (even today), but, oh, did I have fun trying!

Besides, a tattered St. Nick with gators instead of reindeer? Who could resist that?

4. Da Night Before Kris-Moose by Terry Foy

Speaking of accents, have you ever been to Minnesota? No? What about a theatrical viking accent? Ever heard one? You know the one I mean – at least, I hope so because you’ll need it for this book.

This parody of the traditional poem relies heavily on the accent and homophones to change the meaning of the poem, creating a combination parody and caricature that’s well worth a giggle or two. And, as stories go, this one has some points that are definitely more applicable to today than the historic version!

Oh, and if you get the chance to hear this Christmas story performed by the author, take it. Your abs might hate you afterwards, but, remember, laughing burns calories!

Sweetly Sappy or Superbly Silly?

Which will it be? Whichever you pick, these Christmas stories (you know, the ones you’ve probably never heard of) are great for children and adults. In fact, they’re great for children who are adults (Hi!). So pick a flavor and dive in!

What about you? Got any favorite Christmas stories that I’ve probably never heard of?

Free Un-copyrighted Reading on Project Gutenberg

If you want access to stuff you can’t find in print, you need un-copyrighted works to use in print, or you just like to read, check out Project Gutenberg. It’s an online library of books, magazines, poems, articles, etc. that are no longer copyrighted. That includes most of the classics as well as works where the copyright wasn’t renewed (for example, “The Road Not Taken” by Robert Frost). It even has audio copies of many of them.

While easy access to the classics is nice, some of the other old books can be really interesting for research. There are herbals with recipes for medicines and teas. There are books with folk songs and sayings for different regions, others on superstitions, and more. If you have some free time, look through, and you might get some good ideas or useful details for your stories.

It’s also a great resource for genres and styles. Reading the early works in a specific genre really emphasizes how the genre has evolved. Short stories have changed dramatically, and it’s really obvious when you read any of the magazines of short stories (like Astounding Stories of Super-Science). It’s a good way to see what holds up 50 or more years later and what doesn’t.

Or I guess you could read for fun. You know… whatever works.

Video Recommendation: The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged)

While I’m on a Shakespeare kick, if any of you haven’t seen The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged), it is well worth watching if you enjoy Vaudevillian humor. The three men of the Reduced Shakespeare Company perform all the works of Shakespeare in a single performance. That calls for some witty re-writes that are enjoyable for the less-knowledgable and have plenty of inside jokes for people familiar with a broader range of plays. In the more extended pieces, they do actually use many of the most famous lines, as well.

From a writing perspective, it is interesting to study how they took classic plays and reworked them together into a completely new piece. The buildup of the jokes and the layers of meaning make for interesting models for how a modern live performance can employ older subjects and styles.

And, of course, it’s nicely silly and extremely ridiculous if you like that sort of thing.

The Town of Elsewhere: A Scary Short Story for Your Halloween

What’s Halloween without at least one scary story? I thought this one was pretty good and well-written, but as LeVar Burton would say, “…you don’t have to take my word for it.”

There’s A Town In Kentucky That You Won’t Ever Be Able To Find On A Map, And For Good Reason” by Seamus Coffey

The overgrown gravel road leading to the abandoned settlement doesn’t even connect to a main road. As with most places you shouldn’t go, even Google satellite images have been scrubbed with what looks like a bad use of a blur tool. It was located in south-eastern Calloway County just off the shore of Kentucky Lake. Elsewhere sat surrounded by forest. Until recently, several buildings remained.

I’d heard stories about Elsewhere growing up. Being a Calloway County native, I heard most of the local folklore and ghost stories. I spent several nights in Asbury and Old Salem cemeteries looking to verify stories of creepy ghosts and various monsters. The most I ever got was spooked friends and a bad case of the willies. I was volunteering at the Senior Citizen’s center when Earl, a man of about 80 years old, told me a story about the fall of Elsewhere… (Read more)

Recommended Reading: A Little Horror for Your Halloween

Having only recently taken an interest in horror, I don’t have a lot of personal experience with the genre. That’s why when I started research for Bloodletting, I asked friends and family what aspects they liked best and what books/movies were their favorites. In the process, I found out that several good friends of mine are big horror fans. These two sites are ones they recommended I look at as part of my research. What better way to celebrate Halloween than to share them with you?

No Sleep

Reddit has a page called “No Sleep” where anyone can submit single horror stories or serials. According to the moderators, they try to encourage quality work by excluding posts that are only images or videos, and they do monthly “BestOf” awards to showcase great stories. There seem to be a wide variety of styles. Readers will like some better than others, but the variety is great for writers to see what works and what doesn’t – especially in relation to the reddit rankings.

Pseudopod

For those who’d rather listen than read, try “Pseudopod” where short horror stories are transformed into podcasts. I’m picky about voice acting and audiobooks, but the little snippets I heard were good enough that I’m still open to listening (when I have time). Since reading stories aloud generally takes longer than reading them on a page, they tend to like flash fiction, so this can be great training for getting a mood and effect across in fewer words.

There you go. Have a great Halloween and many happy frights!

A Book Review: Lynne Truss’ Eats, Shoots & Leaves

When I bought the book Eats, Shoots & Leaves by Lynne Truss, all I knew about it was that it was about grammar (via punctuation) and that I find the joke of the title hilarious.

Of course, the cover just makes the joke better.

Of course, the cover just makes the joke better.

As the back says, “A panda walks into a cafe. He orders a sandwich, eats it, then draws a gun and fires two shots in the air.” This hubbub occurs because of a misplaced comma in a wildlife manual: “Eats, shoots and leaves.” That little comma changes the intended meaning (the panda likes to eat shoots and leaves, AKA, tasty plants) to a much more bizarre meaning (the panda eats, shoots at something, and then exits).

Being a literal-minded person who appreciates a good pun and witty punctuation, I was intrigued enough by this joke to buy the book, and as luck would have it, it turns out that this story is also an excellent summary for the rest of the book. Lynne Truss showcases a wonderfully educated sense of humor framed by punctuation anecdotes, history, and a multitude of allusions (to everything from the classical literature to movies to candy). If that sort of humor appeals to you, and you have a strong understanding of punctuation rules, this is an excellent book to pass the time and have a good laugh.

I also like that it explains the differences between the punctuation rules of the U.S. and the U.K. (it makes me feel so educated). Add accounts of authors’ arguments with editors about whether punctuation should be added or removed, and I’d definitely recommend it as an entertaining read for all English-minded people.

That said, I would not recommend it for anyone trying to learn the rules of punctuation.

Eats, Shoots & Leaves overflows with inside jokes about meaning and the nuances created from the apostrophe, comma, semicolon, and so-on. If you do not know the punctuation rules already, those jokes and anecdotes will make no sense to you (they may actually confuse you more). If you have a more straightforward punctuation book, on the other hand, you could use this book as a supplement to make the subject more interesting – in other words, learn the rule from the other book and then open this one for a good laugh.

Everyone should learn to punctuate sentences correctly. Anyone who likes puns, punctuation, and general wit should consider reading Eats, Shoots & Leaves for a little light-hearted humor.