THE STORY – Poppy discovers that Branch and his four brothers were once part of her favorite boy band. When one of his siblings, Floyd, gets kidnapped by a pair of nefarious villains, Branch and Poppy embark on a harrowing and emotional journey to reunite the other brothers and rescue Floyd from a fate even worse than pop culture obscurity.
THE CAST – Anna Kendrick, Justin Timberlake, Camila Cabello, Eric André, Troye Sivan, Kid Cudi, Daveed Diggs, RuPaul, Amy Schumer, Andrew Rannells & Zosia Mamet
THE TEAM – Walt Dohrn (Director) & Elizabeth Tippet (Writer)
THE RUNNING TIME – 92 Minutes
The music-loving, hair-stretching, glitter-obsessed Trolls are back yet again in “Trolls Band Together,” the third in director Walt Dohrn’s “Trolls” saga. There’s a solid formula to winning over the family crowd: catchy tunes, big bright colors, and loads of goofy jokes. But thankfully, “Trolls Band Together,” like the first two films, has more to offer than just that. Here, it’s a story about brothers who lost touch years ago because they were more concerned about being perfect than loving each other. It’s a solid, meaningful tale that the kids will love, and not just for the music.
For anyone living under a rock without pop culture in the last few months, Justin Timberlake, who voices Branch and serves as the Executive Music Producer, used “Trolls Band Together” to reunite *NSYNC for the first time in twenty years. Their single from the film, “Better Place,” is a perfect pop track with a catchy chorus that’ll stay in your head for weeks. It is odd, though, that *NSYNC only makes a single appearance on the one track, despite “Trolls Band Together” revolving around a boy band getting back together.
As the film opens, Branch (Timberlake) and Poppy (Anna Kendrick) are as happy as can be. Finally, together, they’re celebrating the wedding of their friends Bridget (Zooey Deschanel) and Gristle (Christopher Mintz-Plasse). Naturally, their bliss is interrupted by an unexpected visitor. Unbeknownst to Poppy, as a child, Branch had been in a wildly successful boy band, Brozone, with his four brothers John Dory (Eric André), Floyd (Troye Sivan), Spruce (Daveed Diggs), and Clay (Kid Cudi). They disbanded when they couldn’t hit the perfect family harmony, and John Dory pushed them too hard to be perfect. The brothers haven’t seen each other since. John Dory desperately needs Branch’s help to reunite the brothers to save Floyd, who’s been kidnapped by two wannabe pop-star twins, Velvet (Amy Schumer) and Veneer (Andrew Rannells). The twins have trapped Floyd in an unbreakable diamond bottle and are stealing his talent for their own. Only the perfect family harmony can break the bottle, freeing Floyd. It’s up to Brozone to reunite and save their brother.
While there’s an interesting spin to the characters as they all encounter long-lost siblings, this doesn’t do much to differentiate itself from “Trolls” or “Troll World Tour.” The plot is fairly slim, with Poppy and Branch heading out on a mission yet again, this time with John Dory in tow. Even so, the characters are so fun, the songs so catchy, and the animation so vibrant that it entirely makes up for the story’s simplicity. The glittering explosion of happiness will win over kids, and there’s a self-awareness to the characters that wink at the adults watching, too. When Branch, Poppy, and John Dory catch up with Spruce, now going by Bruce, he’s married with kids, and there’s a slew of jokes that tired parents will understand much more than the kids. Naturally, the thousands of jokes about early 2000s pop music and boy bands are perfectly tailored for millennial parents.
It’s a little unclear why the members of *NSYNC didn’t voice Branch’s brothers. Perhaps that would’ve been too meta. Or maybe they didn’t have confidence in their voice-acting abilities. While that feels like a missed opportunity, the voice-acting in “Trolls Band Together” is top-notch all around, with most of the performers also singing the songs. *NSYNC’s version of “Better Place” is the cornerstone of the soundtrack, but the album has plenty of other great throwback tracks that work like a charm in the film. The jukebox musical-style mask-ups of pre-existing songs are less impressive in “Trolls Band Together” than in the previous two films, but there are still high points. A remix of “Fame” in the song “Mount Rageous” works well, as does Troye Sivan’s cover of America’s “Lonely People.” Still, there was a magic to the “Trolls World Tour” album that feels missing here. That album had stunning tracks from Anderson .Paak and masterful production from Ludwig Göransson. There’s a lot of good to be found in the “Trolls Band Together” soundtrack from music producers Mike Elizondo and Joe Shirley, but it does feel like a step down musically.
The third film in the “Trolls” trilogy may be a bit weaker than its predecessors, but there’s no denying how joyous “Trolls Band Together” truly is. It’s got an excellent message for younger viewers: things don’t have to be perfect to be worthwhile. That encapsulates “Trolls Band Together” well. There are a few bumps in the road, but it’s ultimately a fun and genuinely magical film worth watching with the whole family.