The only interesting question about “Trolls World Tour” is: How’s the new Justin Timberlake banger?
The original “Trolls” was a decent-ish animated comedy that produced an infectious pop anthem for the ages, Timberlake’s Oscar-nominated “Can’t Stop the Feeling!” Timberlake also supplied the voice of a churlish troll who was reluctant to help save the world in “Trolls,” and he and a few new songs are back in the “World Tour” sequel.
In format, the new one is a lot like the original: a bright story periodically interrupted by mildly tense adventure scenes as the world teeters on the edge of sure-to-be-avoided disaster. It’s peppered with cover versions of songs — or, actually, snippets of songs — that can make you feel like you’re stuck at a party with a glitchy karaoke machine that keeps playing a few bars of one hit (“Groove Is in the Heart,” say) before skipping to the next (“Girls Just Want to Have Fun,” maybe — most of the songs date to the ’80s).
To its credit, “World Tour” does try to throw in something new. Its presentation alone is a trailblazing experiment, since it was originally slated for movie theaters but is now “opening” on streaming services instead. This time out, we learn that trolls, those ugly plastic creatures with problem cowlicks, have been divided into a number of races, which are separated by the types of music they love, including country, hip-hop and techno (as represented by Daft Punk’s “One More Time,” which is not techno but whatever).
Each race tries to harsh the other races’ deal, but they’re all united by their hatred of smooth jazz, and somehow that helps everyone realize that, as heroine Poppy (Anna Kendrick) explains, “Music should bring us together, not divide us.” Unless you’re Kenny G, I guess, in which case: Divide away!
That’s a fine, if obvious, theme, and “World Tour” also tries to work in messages about togetherness and cultural appropriation, although it’s strange hearing Timberlake criticize white musicians who steal from black artists when so much of his career owes a debt to Michael Jackson and Quincy Jones.
The “We Are the World” feel of “Trolls World Tour” allows it to incorporate a dizzying array of performers, including Kelly Clarkson, George Clinton, Mary J. Blige and J Balvin. So, if nothing else, the movie introduces kids to the idea that the world of music includes not just whatever Billie Eilish is up to but also yodeling and funk.
Expanded playlists are always a good thing, although you may not need to expand yours to include Timberlake’s latest bid for a hit. It’s a collaborative effort called “Just Sing” and it’s not great.
612-673-4367 Twitter: @HewittStrib
Trolls World Tour
★★ out of 4 stars
Rating: PG for mild rude humor