November 4, 2023
by Carla Hay
Directed by Walt Dohrn; co-directed by Tim Heitz
Culture Representation: This animated film sequel, whch is the third film in the “Trolls” movie seires, has a racially diverse cast (white, African American and Latino) voicing characters based on troll dolls.
Culture Clash: A troll doll named Branch has his secret past exposed as a short-lived boy band member with his brothers, who must all reunite to save one of the brothers, who has been kidnapped by fraternal twin pop stars.
Culture Audience: “Trolls Band Together” will appeal mainly to people who are fans of the “Trolls” movie series, the movie’s cast members, and pop songs from the 1970s to 2000s.
Although not as good as the first two “Trolls” movies, “Trolls Band Together” has its charms with high-energy entertainment and appealing characters. The movie’s biggest flaw: The story is overstuffed with subplots and stunt-casting cameos. There’s nothing award-worthy about “Trolls Band Together,” but it’s the type of animated movie that delivers what it’s supposed to deliver to its intended audience. “Trolls Band Together” (which is the third movie in the “Trolls” series) seems much more geared to children under the age of 8, compared to the first two “Trolls” movies.
Directed by Walter Dohrn and co-directed by Tim Heitz, “Trolls Band Together” is a sequel in the movie series that began with 2016’s “Trolls” and continued with 2020’s “Trolls World Tour.” The movies are based on Good Luck Trolls (toy figurines) created by Thomas Dam. The returning characters in “Trolls Band Together” include Queen Poppy (voiced by Anna Kendrick) and her boyfriend Branch (voiced by Justin Timberlake), who go on a mission to reunite Branch with his brothers, who were all in a boy band together. They have to reunite in order to rescue one of the brothers, who has been kidnapped by villainous fraternal twin pop stars. Elizabeth Tippet wrote the “Trolls Band Together” screenplay.
The movie begins with a flashback from about 20 years earlier, to show the boy band BroZone, consisting of five brothers: the leader John Dory (voiced by Eric André), heartthrob Spruce (voiced by Daveed Diggs), the “fun” one Clay (voiced by Kid Cudi), the sensitive one Floyd (voiced by Troye Sivan), and the “baby” Bitty B, which was Branch’s stage name as the youngest member of the group. During a performance where Bitty B/Baby Branch (voiced by Iris Dohrn) made his stage debut with BroZone, the five group members form a pyramid with their bodies, with Bitty B at the top of this pyramid.
Unfortunately, Bitty B loses his balance, the pyramid collapses, and it causes a domino effect of various mishaps on stage that lead to the concert being cancelled. The brothers are so angry about this embarrassing incident, they argue backstage and decide to break up immediately. Bitty B/Baby Branch gets much of the blame for the fiasco that happened on stage.
The brothers go their separate ways and lose contact with each other. Branch feels so guilty about what happened, he doesn’t tell people in his current life about his brothers and about his past as a short-lived member of BroZone. However, Branch’s past catches up to him when John Dory makes a surprise appearance at the wedding of King Gristle (voiced by Christopher Mintz-Plasse) and Bridget (voiced by Zooey Deschanel), who is Poppy’s best friend. Branch is also a guest at the wedding. This is how Poppy finds out about Branch’s brothers and their BroZone past.
John Dory tells Branch that their brother Floyd has been kidnapped by twin pop stars Velvet (voiced by Amy Schumer) and Veneer (voiced by Andrew Rannells), who are jealous that Floyd has talent, but the twins do not. Velvet and Veneer secretly lip synch their songs. Of the twins, Velvet is the one with the nastier personality. She frequently bullies Veneer and their personal assistant Crimp (voiced by Zosia Mamet).
John Dory found out where Floyd is being held captive and was able to talk to Floyd, who is being held in a diamond cage. Floyd tells John Dory that the cage can only be broken by the sound of perfect family harmony. And you know what that means: A mission to get the band (namely, BroZone) back together.
The rest of “Trolls Band Together” is the expected mix of musical scenes (with pop songs from the 1970s to 2000s), new characters being introduced, and more secrets being revealed. “Trolls Band Together” is also an obvious promotional vehicle for the reunion of *NYSNC, the boy band that made Timberlake famous. The *NSYNC reunion song “Better Place” (co-written by Timberlake, Shellback and Amy Allen) is heard in two different versions near the end of the movie. Other original songs in “Trolls Band Together” are “Family,” “Perfect” and “It Takes Two,” all co-written by Timberlake, Mike Elizondo, Michael Pollack and Emily Warren.
Making return appearances are Guy Diamond (voiced by Kunal Nayyar) and his son Tiny Diamond (voiced by Kenan Thompson), two glittery and talkative Trolls. Tiny ends up being the automobile driver for the mission to reunite BroZone. A princess character named Viva (voiced by Camila Cabello) has a surprise connection to one of the main characters. It’s a subplot that really didn’t need to be in the movie and just distracts from the main story.
“Trolls Band Together” is packed with celebrity voice actors, but at least half of them have screen time that’s less than five minutes each. To its detriment, “Trolls Band Together” went a little too overboard with this stunt casting. One of these cameo appearances is RuPaul Charles as Miss Maxine, the sassy officiator at the wedding of King Gristle and Bridget. The other members of *NSYNC have voice roles as their Troll alter egos who appear briefly toward the end of the film: JC Chasez is Hype, Joey Fatone is Ablaze, Lance Bass is Boom and Chris Kirkpatrick is Trickee.
“Trolls Band Together” isn’t great, but it isn’t horrible either. The visuals are attractive but not groundbreaking. The movie’s main saving grace is the talent of the voice cast members (Kendrick continues to be a standout), who make parts of the movie engaging by sheer personality when these parts of the movie could be just average if less talented voice actors had these roles. As long as viewers don’t have high expectations for “Trolls Band Together,” the movie can be enjoyed for being a crowd-pleasing animated film.
Universal Pictures/DreamWorks Animation will release “Trolls Band Together” in U.S. cinemas on November 17, 2023. A sneak preview of the movie was shown in select U.S. cinemas on November 4, 2023.