Reader Request – The Boy Who Loved Trolls: ’80s PBS Had Good Drugs

Someone actually asked me to review this movie and it is fantastically insane.

SUMMARY (Spoiler-Free)

Paul (Matt Dill) is a pre-teen who still loves stories of magical things like trolls and mermaids, including loving the same book his parents read to him as a small child. His parents (Winnie Flynn and David Crawford) tell him that he needs to start focusing on the future and leave behind childish things. One day he decides that he needs to find a troll and sets out on his own to find one. He meets a rich bridge magnate and his secretary (James Karen and Max Wright), a mad scientist (Josh Mostel), and a doorman who seems to know more than he should (Richard B. Shull). Eventually, Paul finds Ofoeti (Sam Waterston), a troll who lives with a turtle named Socrates (William H. Macy), and a mermaid named Kalotte (Susan Anton). 

WhoLovedTrolls - 2Paul
I admit the picture quality of the film is not the best.



Before I review this, short story time. This review was because I was tagged in a facebook post which was framed thus:

WhoLovedTrolls - 1Post

I have to admit that it’s  perhaps the greatest description of a movie that I’ve ever read. Shortly after, the film was identified as The Boy Who Loved Trolls by a Librarian, for they are the keepers of all knowledge and are used to pulling specific titles from meandering representations. So, that’s how this film got put on my radar.  For the record, the account of the plot above is not INaccurate.

WhoLovedTrolls - 3IOU
Yes, there is a bridge IOU by a person named “Rich Man.” 

This movie was originally a play written by John Wheatcroft starring the late Rene Auberjonois as the troll. This film is what happens when someone who watched that play did a lot of cocaine. While the story is supposed to have a distinct air of “fairy tale” logic, this film kind of blends that with a heavy dose of nonsensical dream logic, which ends up somehow making sense in the end. Given the heavy presence of 80s music in the film, it feels more evocative of a drug trip at several points, despite the fact that this movie was produced by PBS and Disney as part of WonderWorks, a series of adaptations of children’s books. 

WhoLovedTrolls - 4Wonderworks
Maybe you remember this logo?

The theme of the film is trying to hold on to childish wonder while dealing with the fact that adulthood tends to crush it. Paul is shown to be hitting puberty, as indicated by his fake shaving in the opening scene and when the creepy Doorman says that “Paul’s also at the age when another new element comes into view: Girls.” All of the adults in Paul’s life talk to him about his future and how he’s going to have to start taking it seriously. They all deny the existence of trolls, because trolls are representative of imagination. When Paul actually finds Ofoeti, it’s revealed that he can only stay with Paul if Paul gives up his future and stays a child forever. Ultimately, Paul finds a third option, which represents trying to keep some level of imagination and wonder in your heart despite the rest of the world beating it out of you.

WhoLovedTrolls - 5Doorman
The mermaid on the left has zippers for her fins.

The level of illogic in the movie actually helps with this theme, because as you watch the film you can’t possibly predict what’s going to happen next. For example, when Paul encounters a giant turtle in its shell, the turtle comes out of his shell as a regular human being. The fact that it makes no sense puts a little bit of that childish wonder back in the viewer’s mind. 

WhoLovedTrolls - 6Turtle
Also, the “Troll” is a regular person.

While many of the performances in the film are amusingly over the top, I also have to take a moment and say that I have never seen better casting or a more dedicated performance than William H. Macy as a turtle. Everything he does is perfectly in character. Despite the fact that he appears to be a human in a sailor suit, Macy sells me on “is a turtle” so well that I may never be able to unsee it. It’s going to make it so weird to catch up on Shameless

WhoLovedTrolls - 7Macy
This film is worth it just to watch him be a turtle.

Overall, this movie was weird as hell, but I have to recommend it to everyone because it is just so genuinely insane that it needs to be seen. Also, it’s only like an hour long and online for free.

If you want to check out some more by the Joker on the Sofa, check out the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All TimeCollection of TV EpisodesCollection of Movie Reviews, or the Joker on the Sofa Reviews.

If you enjoy these, please, like, share, tell your friends, like the Facebook page (, follow on Twitter @JokerOnTheSofa, and just generally give me a little bump. I’m not getting paid, but I like to get feedback.

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I'm not giving my information to a machine. Nice try, Zuckerberg.

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