As a franchise, Trolls is borderline critic-proof. It has no objective to change the landscape of cinema.
The movies are primarily aimed at a small segment of children. The primary purpose of the films is to tell a moderately good story while giving the little ones something to sing and dance along to.
They serve as comfort movies for children while the parents handle big kid adult problems.
The new sequel Trolls: Band Together offers more of this with a splash of nostalgia for the mothers of the Gen X and Millennial crowd.
The late ’90s and ’00s have caught up to the Trolls franchise, with Justin Timberlake using his boy band roots to influence the newest sequel.
A band of brothers
The new film begins in the past, where Branch (Timberlake) is in a pop group with his older brothers called BroZone. Only in this timeline, Branch is referred to as Biddy B– because he is still a baby.
These older brothers include John Dory (Eric Andre), Spruce (Daveed Diggs), Clay (Kid Cudi), and Floyd (Troye Sivan). The backstory plays on all the familiar boy band cliches. One is the bad boy, another is the heartthrob, one raps, etc. And just like with most musical groups, arguments ensue, and the band breaks up.
Flash forward to the present day, Poppy (Anna Kendrick) is helping Bridgette the Bergen (Zooey Deschanel) plan her wedding with King Gristle (Christopher Mintz-Plasse). As the events unfold, John Dory returns to Branch’s life after many years, but not for a reunion. Branch and Floyd are the closest of all his siblings, and Floyd has been kidnapped by two entitled singers, Velvet (Amy Schumer) and Veneer (Andrew Rannells).
Velvet and Vaneer possess no singing talent and imprison Floyd in a crystal perfume bottle where the pop duo can extract his essence. The more they extract, the closer Floyd comes to peril. To save Floyd, the band must reunite and perform the perfect harmonious union to break the crystal.
From here, Trolls: Band Together becomes a road trip movie as Branch, Poppy, and Floyd team together to find the other brothers of BroZone. And they do so from the mechanics of a tour bus that is a sentient dog-like transportation.
As far as the story goes, it’s pretty simple and not meant to be memorable. A group of trolls on a rescue mission sums it up.
Typically, this reviewer focuses on three criteria when reviewing a movie for kids. 1) Does the movie respect children? 2) Does it tell a good story? And 3) Will the parents enjoy the film as well?
To answer the first question, Trolls: Band Together is respectful to its core audience. There are no fart jokes or juvenile choices that push for the easy laugh. And musically, it wants to engage with children.
The only minor nitpick one might have is some of the musical numbers and songs felt out of place. For example, a sentimental moment happens between characters, and then from nowhere, the trolls break out into a chorus, belting a familiar hit that does not match the tone of the moment.
The animation in this movie is surprisingly bold, spontaneous, and often psychedelic, especially considering its target audience. There’s a scene where Floyd instructs Tiny Diamond to press a button in the car labeled “hustle,” when Tiny Diamond does so, the tour van suddenly shifts into warp speed. This shift causes the animation to enter Grateful Dead-style visuals, complete with mushroom-inspired 2D animation. So, there are some elements here for parents to enjoy.
The narrative of the Trolls franchise could be more inspired. Although it doesn’t need to be revolutionary, the rescue mission plot has been used in numerous other animated movies. As a result, parents who watch the film might find it forgettable.
The voice acting in the Trolls sequel is satisfactory, but there is only so much an actor can do for a film that only offers little. Justin Timberlake is fine as Branch (the role does not ask much from the singer), while Anna Kendrick’s portrayal of Poppy remains infectious. Kenan Thompson, who plays Tiny Diamond, steals the show even though his character isn’t central to the plot. Whenever the shiny little pacifier hustler appears on screen, he captivates the audience.
Trolls: Band Together will ignite interest among mothers who grew up in the boy band era, where *NSYNC and Backstreet Boys ruled the charts. Throughout the movie, the writers cleverly incorporate puns and jokes using the names of past groups.
Additionally, it’s the first film to acknowledge Timberlake’s history as an *NSYNC member while paying tribute to his roots. The film even features a new track from the group after decades of no music.
A safe and reliable franchise
As mentioned, the Trolls franchise is almost immune to criticism. After all, young children are unlikely to read reviews or care about what we have to say. Our opinions can become borderline self-parody if we take ourselves too seriously when evaluating this property.
However, for parents concerned about their kids’ well-being, Trolls: Band Together is a safe and enjoyable movie for children. It provides a comforting escape for kids to sing, dance, and have fun while forgetting about the outside world. And let’s be honest, that’s all we need from a Trolls movie.
Kids will have a blast, parents can relive their boy band nostalgia, and everyone can continue to rely on this trustworthy franchise.
Trolls: Band Together is now in theaters.