(1984)3.5Nathan SouthernThe Boy Who Loved Trolls, one of the most charming non-FX laden children's fantasy films, proves that a movie does not necessarily need a colossal budget and flashy gimmickry to captivate young minds. Journeyman helmer Harvey S. Laidman realized this small-screen adaptation of John Wheatcroft's stage play Ofoeti, via WQED Pittsburgh, as an episode of the first-rate Wonderworks series on PBS. With its underlying celebration of fantasy and imagination, Trolls jumps, both feet first, into the mind of a child -- and thus offers up a limitless expansion of possibilities. But Laidman doesn't overplay his hand -- instead, he recognizes the value of understatement. The director enchants young viewers with low-key onscreen surrealism, drawn out with such small-scale touches as a strange, intentionally repetitive, chantlike score that feels just slightly offset from the everyday world, and deliberate lapses in logic that somehow stay firmly grounded in preadolescent neuroses (such as the pay phone that rings just as Paul walks by it -- with a voice on the other end questioning his identity and whereabouts). Trolls also sports a fantasy world-within-the-film (which Paul enters) that operates on fascinating logical principles and, like the very finest children's literature, isn't afraid of slightly cruel implication. (Witness the generations of period-dressed children who have taken the selfish Ofoeti up on his offer to become his companions and "live forever," thus giving up their homes and families.) Trolls never loses its sense of humor, though, which is drawn from situations that we can all recall being in as adolescents. It benefits from a trio of fine actors (Sam Waterston, William H. Macy, Susan Anton) in key roles, and some of the most endearing, eccentric character players of mid-'80s Hollywood, who give the film class, style, and weight (Josh Mostel, ALF's Max Wright, Splash's Richard B. Shull, James Karen). This film made quite an impression on young minds when it appeared in the mid-'80s, and later in repeat screenings on The Disney Channel. As a result, it now has a devoted following of adults who saw it when they were kids and have never forgotten it. The Boy Who Loved Trolls has withstood the test of time and is just waiting to be discovered by new generations of viewers.