½*/**** Image D+ Sound B
screenplay by Stu Krieger
directed by Don Bluth, Gary Goldman
by Walter Chaw So Gnorga (voiced by Cloris Leachman), the queen of the trolls, hates flowers, outlawing them in her forsaken trolldom. Kindhearted simple-troll Stanley (Dom DeLuise) finds himself and his green thumb in quite the pickle: What's a horticulturally inclined troll to do when everything his olive digit touches turns to a badly-animated flower? Get banished to Central Park in New York, of course--the only place in the universe more unpleasant (according to Gnorga) than Trolldom. Not content to be a worm in the Big Apple, fish-out-of-water intrigue, Don Bluth's excrescent A Troll in Central Park also manages to shoehorn in a Mary Poppins, "parents too busy to fly a kite" bit of nonsense. It seems too much to wrap up in just under seventy-six minutes, but not only does it manage to do just that in its trundling, underdeveloped way, A Troll in Central Park also wastes what feels like hours on aimless and appalling musical numbers.
A Troll in Central Park is about a half-step above Saturday-morning cartoons in the quality of its animation. Backgrounds are static and blurry, the score is overused and misused, the voice talent is meagre (the question of what Charles Nelson Reilly's been up to lately besides an episode of "The X Files" is finally answered), and most of its images are robbed wholesale from the singing flower sequence of Disney's Alice in Wonderland. (Inexplicably, A Troll in Central Park even rips off that film's Sea of Tears sequence.) If you can resist skipping past a line of plants doing a tepid soft-shoe to the delight of a squealing cartoon toddler, you've either fallen asleep like a reasonable person or you believe--in the midst of an alcoholic haze--that you're playing a few lost levels from Bluth's old "Dragon's Lair" stand-up video game.
In the film's defense, there's a weird kind of low-rent psychedelia to it that reminds a great deal of Burgess Meredith's Puff the Magic Dragon. A peculiar near-death dementia sequence even punctuates transitions with the swirling water-coloured madness of the freak flag generation. An homage to a drug-themed counterculture show makes a lot more sense than the middle-of-the-film appearance, in silhouette, of Walt's Magic Kingdom, which rises from the purple clouds like some kind of slam of the chip on Bluth's shoulder. I was also sort of interested in a few segments in which the evil trolls appear decked out in full Wagnerian regalia, but rather than an attempt to work Gotterdammerung into a children's film, it appears to be just another dimwitted rip-off, this time of a Warner Bros. "Bugs Bunny" cartoon.
All best attempts to ascribe a deeper meaning to the success or failure of A Troll in Central Park should, however, be accompanied by the disclaimer that the film most likely fails because it's almost entirely unwatchable. While sitting in thrall of it, it's only natural for the abused mind to scramble to find reason in an otherwise meaningless entertainment.
Another of Fox's "Family Features" DVDs, A Troll in Central Park looks awful. Rare for an animated film, it suffers from the "screen-door effect" for a good portion of its running time while exhibiting the kind of colour saturation that makes the images appear soft. I'm not certain if this is an offense to be placed at the feet of the telecine operators, Bluth, or Fox, but it results in that cheap animation sweatshop patina familiar from decades of beloved but terrible holiday cartoons. The Dolby Surround mix boasts of little to no ambient effects, splitting its time mainly between reproducing insipid tunes and the warbling screeching of toddlers and Leachman. It's clear, in other words, but underutilized. The bare-bones 1.78:1, 16x9-enhanced presentation is rounded out by a fullscreen version of the film on the disc's flipside plus trailers for other Family Features: Baby's Day Out, FernGully: The Last Rainforest, The Man from Snowy River, The Pagemaster, and The Sandlot. Originally published: March 10, 2002.