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Trolls Band Together
Kids will go crazy for this colorful, high-energy installment in the franchise
The first Trolls movie, released in 2016, was a lot better than it had any right being. The colorful jukebox musical, based on the almost-forgotten brand of toys from the 1990s, became a mainstay for parents trying to entertain their elementary-aged children. The soundtrack featured a mixture of cover songs and mash-ups, with a few originals sprinkled in, including an Oscar-nominated mega-hit from Justin Timberlake “Can’t Stop the Feeling.” It became music that parents could play in the car on the way to dropping kids off at school. The children love it and parents tolerate it much more than Kidz Bop.
It’s follow-up, “Trolls World Tour,” didn’t make the same impact. Released in April 2020 simultaneously in theaters and on-demand, the COVID-19 pandemic caused families to discover the sequel years later once it made its way to Netflix. Throw in a confusing plot that tried to jam in too many characters and too many musical genres and the sequel didn’t make the same impact.
The third installment in the Dreamworks animated franchise follows the same formula as the first two, but with slightly diminishing returns. Introduce new character. Throw in jokes that parents will get but go over the kids’ heads. Sing a bunch of songs. Talk about friendship and being yourself. Check ✔️ Check ✔️ Check ✔️ Check ✔️
In “Trolls Band Together,” Branch, voiced by Justin Timberlake, goes on a journey to reunite with his estranged brothers, with whom he once performed with in a boyband called Brozone. They have to sing in perfect harmony in order to break a diamond prison for one of their brothers, kidnapped by weird looking Gaga-esque pop stars who have stolen the Trolls’ talent. The brother-sister Milli Vanilli-inspired duo of Velvet and Veneer, voiced by Amy Schumer and Andrew Rannells, are a very strange looking species of big-eyed humans, which resemble thin, stringy people. They look like they’re made out of licorice. I winced whenever I saw them on screen. I did not love the character design.
Poppy, voiced by Anna Kendrick, isn’t front and center this time, but she gets a subplot involving a long-lost sister Viva, voiced by Camila Cabello. An excuse for another toy to sell, but it works. My daughter and her friend (both four years old) were already saying, “You can be Poppy and I get to be her sister.”
The biggest draw — advertised in the media too — is that NSYNC (Justin Timberlake’s original boy band) released their first new song in 22 years for the soundtrack. The entire movie itself is making fun of early 2000s boy bands (the frosted tips, the puffy vests, the ridiculous outfits), so that will provide some appeal for millennial parents taking their children to see this. Lots of nostalgia with the song choices and the references.
For the parents, you might enjoy “Trolls Band Together” better than “Trolls World Tour” but neither are anywhere as good as the first movie, which had plenty of catchy songs, a streamlined plot and distinct characters. The sequels are just money grabs. They want to sell toys. They want you to stream the songs.
Would a childless adult want to see this one? Probably not. This isn’t Pixar-level quality. There are jokes in there just for the adults, but actually as a dad I didn’t love them in there. One joke about being tied up on a honeymoon night wasn’t funny enough to include, especially if you worry about your kids repeating the joke. If you’re going to be inappropriate, it better be funny.
The one-liners are rapid-fire in the movie and so by sheer volume you’ll likely laugh at something, but a lot of the jokes land flat.
The songs are OK, but not as catchy as previous Trolls movies (that first movie’s soundtrack is so good that you don’t have to have kids to enjoy it).
The NSYNC song is pretty unspectacular. It tries really hard to sound like something from the early 2000s and so it’s pretty generic.
The best thing about Trolls is that the kids loved it. They had a blast and it’s easy for you to love it vicariously through them.