The best parts of the Trolls franchise have always been the music and the performances by Anna Kendrick and Justin Timberlake, and the latest entry, Trolls Band Together, does not break that trend. A goofy jukebox musical for a family audience, this has some definite weaknesses, but there’s a lot going for it nevertheless.
Trolls Band Together follows Poppy and Branch as they have to set out on another adventure when Branch’s long lost older brother, with whom he used to be in a band, is kidnapped, and the only thing that can save them is if the group reunites. It’s a formulaic family adventure, but there is no shortage of energy, and that should be enough to keep the target audience engaged.
The first thirty minutes of the film are rough to get through, as the audience is subjected to all of the exposition. Not only do we have to learn about Branch’s past with his brothers and their band, but we get an explanation of the “perfect family harmony” and how that’s the key to saving the day. It wouldn’t be too bad if this was just explained to us once, but it’s hammered in over and over again each time a new character is brought into the fold.
Trolls Band Together is a harmless, silly animated musical
Finally, when we’re able to actually get on with our adventure, Trolls Band Together settles into its rhythm and becomes genuinely fun. Sure, the story is over-the-top and ridiculous, but considering that this is firmly aimed at the preschool audience, some of the contrivances can be forgiven. And the adults that accompany them will get a good chuckle out of the many boy band easter eggs and puns.
There is such a thing as too much, and Trolls Band Together does suffer from biting off more than it can chew in terms of introducing new characters. There are simply too many moving parts here, and cutting between them as frequently as this movie does makes the whole experience feel altogether erratic.
All of the returners do a very good job in their roles, as expected, but it is the new players who shine brightest. Eric André, Daveed Diggs, Kid Cudi, and Troye Sivan are all strong as the rest of the boy band group; Camilla Cabello is enjoyable but underused as a foil for Kendrick; and Andrew Rannells is great as one half of the villain duo (Amy Schumer is forgettable as the other half).
One of the main reasons to see Trolls Band Together is that it was the occasion for Timberlake to reunite with his fellow members of boy band NSYNC. The song that resulted from this collaboration, “Better Place,” is catchy and feels reminiscent of the best hits in their discography in the best possible way.
The animation, like in the previous two films in the franchise, is hyperactive and filled with color. The character design for the villains is somewhat questionable and the metropolis setting of the climax doesn’t work particularly well within the context of this universe. However, there are a few sequences that offer ambitious swings — a Yellow Submarine-inspired 2D scene being the most obvious one that stands out.
Trolls Band Together is clearly made with kids and their parents in mind, and in that regard, the movie delivers exactly what it’s meant to. Although it’s not as good as the new high Trolls World Tour set for the franchise, it’s a lot more entertaining than the first entry.
Trolls Band Together hits theaters on November 17.