Published On: Sat, Nov 18th, 2023

Movie Review: ‘Trolls Band Together’

Movie Review: ‘Trolls Band Together’
Movie Review: ‘Trolls Band Together’


(from left) John Dory (Eric André), Clay (Kid Cudi), Poppy (Anna Kendrick), Branch (Justin Timberlake), Viva (Camila Cabello), Floyd (Troye Sivan) and Spruce (Daveed Diggs) in 'Trolls Band Together,' directed by Walt Dohrn.

(from left) John Dory (Eric André), Clay (Kid Cudi), Poppy (Anna Kendrick), Branch (Justin Timberlake), Viva (Camila Cabello), Floyd (Troye Sivan) and Spruce (Daveed Diggs) in ‘Trolls Band Together,’ directed by Walt Dohrn.

Trolls Band Together’, which arrives in theaters on Friday, is the third outing for the popular franchise, following in the footsteps –– or perhaps that should be dance steps in this case –– of 2016’s ‘Trolls’ and 2020’s more controversial ‘Trolls World Tour’.

That second film was problematic not because of any particular content, but because it was one of the earliest movies to be released concurrently in theaters and on Peacock, which angered major movie chain AMC enough that it swore not to release Universal movies going forward (that has since been reversed thanks to a new contract between the studio and the company).

‘Trolls Band Together’ has faced its own challenge –– the actors’ strike has meant its stars, including Justin Timberlake and Anna Kendrick –– were not permitted to promote it until this final week of release now the strike is over.

So, the new movie has to stand on its own merits, which honestly are becoming fewer and fewer as the franchise rumbles along.

Is ‘Trolls Band Together’ a fun family film?

'Trolls Band Together,' directed by Walt Dohrn. © 2023 DreamWorks Animation. All Rights Reserved.

‘Trolls Band Together,’ directed by Walt Dohrn. © 2023 DreamWorks Animation. All Rights Reserved.

The ‘Trolls’ franchise, despite its star vocal power and box office success, has never seemed to enjoy the same reputation as, say, the ‘Shrek’ movies or ‘How to Train Your Dragon’ in the DreamWorks Animation Canon. It’s noticeable that there isn’t a troll to be found in the fancy recent animated legacy logo for the studio.

And while the original ‘Trolls’ was full of energy and no little invention, and the second looked to raise the stakes, ‘Band Together’ sadly feels like it’s running low on both, forced to rely on hokey old chestnuts as previously unexplored relatives and fame-hungry divas.

Plus, if we’re honest, the movie largely feels like an excuse to have Justin Timberlake reunite boyband NSYNC for a closing song. It’s a marketing decision that inspired a movie, and that shows.

‘Trolls Band Together’: Script and Direction

Zooey Deschanel voices Bridget in 'Trolls Band Together,' directed by Walt Dohrn.

Zooey Deschanel voices Bridget in ‘Trolls Band Together,’ directed by Walt Dohrn.

With DreamWorks veteran Walt Dohrn (who co-directed the original) and co-director Tim Heitz working from a script by Elizabeth Tippet (‘Trolls World Tour’) ‘Band Together’ flashes back to Branch’s (Timberlake) younger days when he was part of a boy band called BroZone with his brothers. Quite why he’s never thought to mention this fact to Poppy (Kendrick) is somewhat explained by the fact that the group –– and the family –– broke up after they failed to achieve a “perfect family harmony” during their big concert. And if you guessed that might factor into the plot down the road, have a gold star –– it’s always how these things work out.

But Poppy and Branch heading out on a mission to help save one of those mysterious brothers when he’s kidnapped by fame-hungry performers Veneer (Andrew Rannells) and Velvet (Amy Schumer), who literally have a way to siphon his talent for their own use is far from the most compelling concept. The storyline wends its way through the predictable beats that will keep the kids entertained enough but will likely feel punishing to most adults who have to take them.

It is certainly bright and frenetic in keeping with the other movies, but that’s all in service of a very bland story. And the jukebox musical format mostly makes you think that more effort was put into finding ways to squeeze in pop and oldies hits into the plot.

Related Article: Movie Review: ‘Ruby Gillman, Teenage Kraken’

‘Trolls Band Together’: Performances

(from left) Branch (Justin Timberlake) and Poppy (Anna Kendrick) in 'Trolls Band Together,' directed by Walt Dohrn.

(from left) Branch (Justin Timberlake) and Poppy (Anna Kendrick) in ‘Trolls Band Together,’ directed by Walt Dohrn. © 2023 DreamWorks Animation. All Rights Reserved.

As usual, Kendrick is the standout here, her infectious enthusiasm as Poppy helping to paper over some of the cracks. Timberlake rarely gets above serviceable as Branch, though he seems to pick up some energy whenever he’s given a chance to sing.

There are a few of the veteran ‘Trolls’ performers here, especially Zooey Deschanel as Bridget and Christopher Mintz-Plasse as King Gristle, the former Troll-hunting Bergens who are now good friends of our heroes, while Kenan Thompson adds in his typical side gags as Tiny Diamond.

Of the new recruits, Schumer and Rannells make the most impact as the posturing performer twins, who are styled like 1920s cartoons from rivals Disney (surely no coincidence), while Camila Cabello does her best to match Kendrick’s energy as Viva, Poppy’s heretofore unmentioned sister. Credit also to Zosia Mamet as Crimp, the twins’ overworked and underappreciated assistant.

‘Trolls Band Together’ Final Thoughts

Branch (Justin Timberlake, center) in 'Trolls Band Together,' directed by Walt Dohrn.

Branch (Justin Timberlake, center) in ‘Trolls Band Together,’ directed by Walt Dohrn.

If you’re in the right age bracket for the ‘Trolls’ movies, then this essentially delivers what you’re after –– a lot of music, some bright, peppy animation that moves at a high gear and plenty of silly jokes. It’s chaotic and candy colored, and if you don’t love one sequence, another will be along shortly.

Plus, there has been some effort lavished on the musical sequences, which are the selling point here –– some experimental animated moments that evoke the likes of ‘Yellow Submarine’ or wilder and wackier comic books to stand apart from the usual blend of felt Trolls and the rest of the characters, who have a near stop-motion feel.

Those who are older might smile at the sheer number of boyband names and other references crammed into the dialogue. But in general, you’re likely to end up just feeling a little tired of it all. These Trolls could really use spending quiet time in their tree for a few years –– at least until they dream up some new material.

‘Trolls Band Together’ receives 5 out of 10 stars.

What’s the story of ‘Trolls Band Together’?

Poppy (Anna Kendrick) discovers that Branch (Justin Timberlake) was once part of the boy band ‘BroZone’ with his brothers, Floyd (Troye Sivan), John Dory (Eric André), Spruce (Daveed Diggs) and Clay (Kid Cudi).

When Floyd is kidnapped, Branch and Poppy embark on a journey to reunite his two other brothers and rescue him.

Who else is in ‘Trolls Band Together’?

‘Trolls Band Together’ also features the voices of Zooey Deschanel, Kevin Michael Richardson, Patti Harrison, Andrew Rannells, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Kunal Nayyar, Amy Schumer, Kenan Thompson and Zosia Mamet.

(from left) Poppy (Anna Kendrick) and Viva (Camila Cabello) in 'Trolls Band Together,' directed by Walt Dohrn.

(from left) Poppy (Anna Kendrick) and Viva (Camila Cabello) in ‘Trolls Band Together,’ directed by Walt Dohrn.

Other Movies Similar to ‘Trolls Band Together’:

Buy Tickets: ‘Trolls Band Together’ Movie Showtimes

Buy ‘Trolls’ Movies on Amazon

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