The first Trolls movie was a box office smash that could even add the words “Oscar-nominated” to its list of accolades – which made an eventual sequel virtually guaranteed. That follow-up feature got cut off at the knees by a global pandemic, but that wasn’t enough to stop the franchise machine. Now Trolls Band Together is here, and while the movie isn’t going to provide you with anything particularly important for your life unless you’re a serious *NSYNC fan, it’s hard not to get swept up in what is ultimately a lot of harmless fun that both kids and parents will appreciate.
Trolls Band Together
Release Date: November 17, 2023
Directed By: Walt Dohrn, Tim Heitz
Written By: Elizabeth Tippet and Thomas Dam
Starring: Anna Kendrick, Justin Timberlake, Troye Sivan, Eric André, Daveed Diggs, Kid Cudi, Andrew Rannells, and Amy Schumer
Rating: PG for some mild rude and suggestive humor.
Runtime: 92 minutes
As with the previous Trolls movies, the focus is back on Poppy (Anna Kendrick) and Branch (Justin Timberlake). Specifically, it focuses on the fact that when Branch was a baby, he was a member of the Troll Boy Band BroZone – until the brothers (Troye Sivan, Eric André, Daveed Diggs, Kid Cudi) all had a falling out and went their separate ways.
Despite being a BroZone fan, Poppy never knew her boyfriend was a famous pop star until one brother arrives to inform Branch that another has been captured by the pop duo Velvet and Venner (Amy Schumer and Andrew Rannells), who are using him to fuel their talent. So it’s time to get the band back together because only the “perfect family harmony” will save him.
Trolls Band Together doesn’t have a plot so much as an excuse to string songs together.
It’s a pretty light and fluffy plot for what is ultimately a light and fluffy story, but let us not pretend that Trolls Band Together is anything other than what it looks like. While most musicals have songs that serve a story, Trolls Band Together has a story that serves its songs. It exists for the music first. The majority of the soundtrack is pop songs that the kids in the audience probably won’t recognize, but their parents likely will.
At least, they will if they notice them all. A lot of music is performed in a strange montage style where one song flows into the next, almost too fast to notice. It’s like some of the songs we hear were meant more as Easter eggs than actual soundtrack choices. If you hear a track you didn’t care for in the ‘90s don’t worry, it will be over soon. But if you catch something you actually like, it’s going to be gone just as fast, leaving you unsatisfied. It’s certainly a way to get in a lot of musical callbacks.
The music is certainly one of the potential audience pluses for Trolls Band Together, at least for half the audience. The music as well as the humor is designed to appeal more to the adults that bring children to see the movie than to the children themselves. The in-joke of Branch having been in a boy band just like his voice actor Justin Timberlake is frequently the focus of one-liners, but even when it’s not being addressed directly, it’s never far from the top of mind.
Anna Kendrick and Justin Timberlake are still a fun pair.
In addition to the music, Trolls Band Together is a movie that is carried by character chemistry. Anna Kendrick and Justin Timberlake are still an entertaining enough pair, even three movies in. I’m not sure there are a lot of fans desperately invested in this particular duo, and the movie doesn’t really do anything new with it, though it does tease the idea of doing something with the relationship, which makes one wonder if there are already people working on a fourth installment of this franchise.
The rest of the humor comes from continually playing with the boyband concept. Each member of BroZone is based on one of the key personas we tend to see in such groups, and then we get to see how they’ve changed over the years. Spoiler: the fun one is now the serious one, get it? Collectively they’re entertaining enough, but much like a boy band, they all tend to blur together and don’t feel like fully realized characters.
A side plot involving a long-lost sister for Kendrick’s Poppy feels like an addition that was made strictly to help Trolls Band Together hit a feature runtime. The movie clocks in at barely an hour and a half including the credits, meaning without the significant detour, it would have been quite the short movie. The villains are nearly as forgettable. They are barely one-dimensional characters with the simplest of motivations.
Yes, *NSYNC appears, do with this information what you will.
One thing the antagonists do add is a slightly different character animation style, and that is one place where the road trip-style movie excels. It takes the main characters to parts of their world we have not seen before, which introduces character designs that are new and significantly different from the traditional Troll design we’re otherwise inundated with in this series. At a couple of points, the movie even drastically shifts animation styles, which makes for a nice change of pace.
A big part of Trolls Band Together’s promotion has focused on the fact that the movie includes a brand new *NSYNC song, and it certainly does. However, anybody attending the movie simply for that reason is going to have to work through a lot to get there. It will likely be an entertaining payoff for fans, though one has to wonder how many children in the audience are going to be very confused why mom and dad got so excited all of a sudden.
Trolls Band Together as a movie is much like the music that holds it together: fun but without much depth. It’s not likely to be remembered by its audience for very long after it’s over. But that’s fine. It’s the sort of film where everybody going in to have a good time will find one.
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