Review: ‘Trolls Band Together,’ starring the voices of Anna Kendrick, Justin Timberlake, Eric André, Kid Cudi, Daveed Diggs, Andrew Rannells, Amy Schumer, Troye Sivan and Kenan Thompson

November 4, 2023

by Carla Hay

John Dory (voiced by Eric André), Poppy (voiced by Anna Kendrick) and Branch (voiced by Justin Timberlake) in “Trolls Band Together” (Image courtesy of DreamWorks Animation)

“Trolls Band Together”

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.

Pictured clockwise, from upper left: Spruce (voiced by Daveed Diggs), Bitty B, also known as Baby Branch (voiced by Alan Kim), Floyd (voiced by Troye Sivan), Clay (voiced by Kid Cudi) and John Dory (voiced by Eric André) in “Trolls Band Together” (Image courtesy of DreamWorks Animation) 

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.

Review: ‘Our Son,’ starring Luke Evans, Billy Porter, Christopher Woodley, Andrew Rannells, Robin Weigert, Kate Burton and Phylicia Rashad

June 24, 2023

by Carla Hay

Billy Porter, Christopher Woodley and Luke Evans in “Our Son” (Photo by Amy Mayes)

“Our Son”

Directed by Bill Oliver

Culture Representation: Taking place in New York City, the dramatic film “Our Son” features a racially diverse cast of characters (African American, white and some Latinos) representing the working-class and middle-class.

Culture Clash: Two divorcing husbands fight for primary custody of their 8-year-old son.

Culture Audience: “Our Son” will appeal primarily to viewers who are fans of the movie’s headliners and who are interested in watching divorce dramas from a gay male perspective.

Billy Porter and Luke Evans in “Our Son” (Photo by Amy Mayes)

“Our Son” might get some comparisons to the 1979 Oscar-winning drama “Kramer vs. Kramer” because of the many similarities, but “Our Son” is more like a made-for-TV movie instead of an Oscar-worthy film. The convincing performances elevate this formulaic divorce drama when the pacing drags. “Our Son” had its world premiere at the 2023 Tribeca Festival.

Directed by Bill Oliver (who co-wrote the “Our Son” screenplay with Peter Nickowitz), “Our Son” has so many characteristics that are just like “Kramer vs. Kramer,” people who’ve seen “Kramer vs. Kramer” will know exactly how “Our Son” is going to end within 15 minutes of the movie starting. The main difference between the two movies is that the divorcing couple fighting over child custody is a heterosexual couple (played by Dustin Hoffman and Meryl Streep) in “Kramer vs. Kramer,” while the divorcing couple fighting over child custody in “Our Son” is a gay male couple, played by Luke Evans and Billy Porter. But even if viewers don’t know anything about “Kramer vs. Kramer,” it’s still very easy to predict the outcome of “Our Son” as soon as the divorce starts to happen.

Both movies take place in New York City. Both movies have an adorable son under the age of 10 who’s the only child of the divorcing couple fighting over custody of him. Both movies show that one person in the marriage is the more nurturing parent, while the other person in the marriage is the more emotionally distant parent. Both movies have the lower income of one parent used as a reason in the divorce battle as “evidence” that this lower-income parent should not have primary custody.

In the very beginning of “Our Son,” the marriage of Nicky (played by Evans) and Gabriel (played by Porter) seems to be solid but stuck in a rut. It’s not mentioned how long Gabriel and Nicky have been married, but they’ve been a couple for 13 years. Nicky and Gabriel have an 8-year-old son named Owen (played by Christopher Woodley), who is a high-energy and curious child.

Nicky is a workaholic who is consumed with his work as a book publisher. Gabriel is a former actor who gave up acting to become a homemaker after Owen was born. Gabriel is the parent who spends more time with Owen and has a closer emotional bond with Owen. Gabriel also gets help from an amiable babysitter named Isabella (played by Nuala Cleary), who visits the family home multiple times a week.

Owen was born in Philadelphia to a surrogate named Penny, who is not involved in Owen’s life and is not seen in the movie. Owen was conceived through artificial insemination using Nicky’s sperm. The egg donor is Adele (played by Cassandra Freeman), Nicky’s longtime friend from college. Adele, who currently lives in London, has no say in how Owen is being raised. She considers her egg donation to be a gift to Nicky and Gabriel. Adele is seen as a family friend, but she is not in regular contact with Owen.

From the movie’s opening scene, the cracks begin to show in the marriage of Nicky and Gabriel. After Nicky and Gabriel go home from watching Owen dance at a school talent show, Nicky and Gabriel immediately disagree on how they react to Owen’s dance performance. Gabriel gives Owen a small token gift to show his admiration for Owen, while Nicky says the gift is unnecessary. Nicky’s reasoning is that he doesn’t want Owen to be spoiled, while Gabriel sees nothing wrong with giving Owen this gift.

Later, in their bedroom, Nicky and Gabriel argue in private about their different parenting styles. Gabriel expresses frustration that Nicky isn’t more available for parenting responsibilities. Nicky’s response to Gabriel is: “Sometimes, I feel like you don’t appreciate my work.” Gabriel vehemently denies this accusation.

Nicky and Gabriel also disagree about Owen sleeping in their bed with them whenever Owen wants. Nicky thinks Owen is too old for it, while Gabriel thinks that Owen can still sleep in their bed. Gabriel and Nicky call a truce on this argument, give each other a light kiss, and then go to sleep. But there’s more trouble brewing ahead.

Gabriel and Nicky’s social circle consists almost entirely of other LGBTQ people. Two of their closest friends are a lesbian couple named Claire (played by Liza J. Bennett) and Judith (played by Gabby Beans), who happily announce at a dinner party that they are expecting their first child together. Gabriel and Nicky are at this dinner party and express sincere congratulations. But seeing Claire and Judith so happy about becoming parents seems to trigger something in Gabriel.

When Gabriel and Nicky go home from the dinner party, Gabriel makes a confession to Nicky: “I met somebody. Somebody I have feelings for.” Nicky is shocked, because he and Gabriel had agreed to be monogamous, after experimenting with being in an open marriage. (The “open marriage” part of the relationship is never seen in the movie.)

Nicky demands to know who Gabriel’s lover is. “It’s nobody you know,” says Gabriel, who tells Nicky his lover is someone he met at a nightclub about six weeks ago. Gabriel also tells Nicky that he’s sorry for the affair but he’s undecided about what to do. Nicky is hurt and upset, but he still wants to save the marriage.

Meanwhile, viewers see that Gabriel’s lover is a younger man named Will (played by William Demeritt), who meets up with Gabriel for a sexual tryst after Gabriel has confessed the affair to Nicky. During this hookup encounter, Will isn’t exactly thrilled when Gabriel suggests that Will, Gabriel and Nicky should all meet for a drink together to talk things over. Will isn’t just annoyed; he’s completely turned off by the idea. He coldly tells Gabriel, “I can’t go to an emotional place with you because you’re married.” And that’s the end of the relationship between Gabriel and Will.

Gabriel tells Nicky that his relationship with Will is over. A relieved Nicky thinks the end of this extramarital affair will mean that Gabriel will want to work on their marriage. However, Gabriel mournfully tells Nicky that he hasn’t been happy in their marriage for a very long time. Gabriel doesn’t think going back to couples therapy will work either. Gabriel then leaves the home while he figures out what to do next.

Gabriel can’t stay away from Owen for long, and he eventually comes back to the family home. Although Gabriel was the one who cheated, Nicky takes some responsibility for their failing marriage too. Nicky tells Gabriel: “I know I’ve gotten lazy in our marriage. I know I could do better. I could be better.” Gabriel says, “I love you too, baby. I don’t think it’s enough anymore … I’ve spoken to a divorce attorney.”

And so begins the divorce battle between Gabriel and Nicky. Gabriel eventually tells Nicky that he doesn’t love Nicky anymore. Nicky doesn’t want the divorce and goes through all the five stages of grief over the end of the marriage. Because Gabriel had essentially been raising Owen like a single parent before the divorce, Gabriel incorrectly assumes that Nicky will automatically agree to let Gabriel have primary custody of Owen.

Nicky gets angrier the more that he starts to hear about how much alimony and child support he would have to pay to Gabriel if Gabriel had primary custody of Owen. Nicky also feels very hurt by Gabriel rejecting Nicky and refusing to get back together. These negative feelings from Nicky escalate until he decides he’s going to fight for primary custody of Owen. Nicky’s main argument in this custody battle is that he’s the more stable parent because he earns a lot more money than Gabriel.

Gabriel’s financial situation is shaky but not alarming. After filing for divorce, Gabriel gets his own place (a small apartment) and a low-paying job helping homeless youth at a non-profit center. The person who got him the job is a talkative friend named Matthew (played by Andrew Rannells), who has been working at this non-profit for the past 10 years. Matthew is one of the friends who was at the dinner party where Claire and Judith announced that they are going to become parents.

Nicky and Matthew briefly dated each other when they were “23, newly out, single, and living in the city,” according to Matthew. Their romantic relationship didn’t work out, but Nicky and Matthew decided to remain friends. Naturally, Matthew feels caught in the middle of Nicky and Gabriel in this divorce/custody battle. Matthew tries to stay neutral, but it’s awkward. “Our Son” realistically shows how divorces and similar couple breakups also have an effect on friendships.

Nicky hires a tough-minded and ambitious attorney named Pam (played by Robin Weigert), who happens to be a lesbian. Gabriel’s attorney is the more easygoing Lorenzo (played Alfred Narciso), who is no pushover either. The expected arguments ensue between Nicky and Gabriel. The divorce also takes a toll on Owen, who has a hard time accepting that his parents are not getting back together.

“Our Son” also shows how Nicky reluctantly gets back into the dating scene during his divorce. He meets an attractive younger man named Solo (played Isaac Powell) at a nightclub. And everything that you think will happen does happen after Nicky and Solo flirt with each other. The sex scenes in “Our Son” are not completely explicit, but they’re definitely meant for adult viewers.

“Our Son” capably explains some of the legal issues involved in this type of custody battle. For example, Pam tells Nicky almost from the start that just because Nicky is Owen’s biological father, that doesn’t mean Nicky has more parental rights than Gabriel, because Nicky and Gabriel legally adopted Owen together. Why can’t Nicky and Gabriel agree to joint custody of Owen? Gabriel believes that Nicky’s job is too demanding for Nicky to have the time for joint custody.

Porter and Evans give admirable performances that show the nuances of why couples who thought they would be together for the rest of their lives end up splitting up due to incompatibility. (Stay for the end credits to hear Porter and Evans duet on the song “Always Be My Man.”) It would have been very easy to portray Nicky as the “villain,” but there are no real “villains” in this story—only people who get hurt by the pain of divorce.

Owen’s arrival in the relationship did not cause the breakup of Gabriel and Nicky, because their incompatibility issues were already there. Nicky and Gabriel both have their share of flaws and responsibilities in why their marriage failed. But who’s the more deserving parent to have primary custody of Owen? You’d have to be asleep for most of the movie to not see the answer that you know is coming.

“Our Son” goes deep with some raw emotions, but this type of divorce/custody battle has been done on screen so many times before (especially in TV shows), it all seems overly familiar. The movie’s supporting characters are mostly underdeveloped. Kate Burton has a small role as Maggie, also known as Miggie, who is Nicky’s mother. Likewise, Phylicia Rashad makes a brief appearance as Maya, who is Gabriel’s mother.

Even with the movie’s clichés and flaws, “Our Son” does a very good job of showing how there’s not much difference in divorces between gay couples and heterosexual couples. In the production notes for “Our Son,” filmmaker Oliver says when co-writing the screenplay, he drew from a lot of his own experiences of being a gay parent. That authenticity comes through in a lot of the movie’s dialogue and scenarios, although “Our Son” somewhat glosses over many of the racial issues that would come up in an interracial marriage and custody battle for an interracial child. A talented cast and interesting main characters are ultimately what save “Our Son” from sinking into a mediocre mush of melodrama.

UPDATE: Vertical will release “Our Son” in select U.S. cinemas on December 8, 2023. The movie will be released on digital and VOD on December 15, 2023.

2019 Tony Awards: performers and presenters announced

June 3, 2019

The following is a press release from the Tony Awards:

Some of the world’s biggest stars from stage and screen will appear at the 73rd Annual Tony Awards. The list of names announced includes Darren Criss, Tina Fey, Sutton Foster, Samuel L. Jackson, Regina King, Laura Linney, Audra McDonald, Ben Platt, Billy Porter, Andrew Rannells, LaTanya Richardson Jackson and Michael Shannon. More presenters will be announced soon.

The Tony Awards telecast will feature an incredible line up of celebrity presenters and musical performances for Broadway’s biggest night.
James Corden will return to host the American Theatre Wing’s 2019 Tony Awards, which will be broadcast live from Radio City Music Hall in New York City on CBS. The three-hour program will air on Sunday, June 9th 8:00 – 11:00 p.m. (ET/PT time delay). The Tony Awards are presented by The Broadway League and the American Theatre Wing.

You can also watch the Tony Awards online with CBS All Access. More info at

June 5, 2019 UPDATE: A second round of artists has been added to appear at THE 73rd ANNUAL TONY AWARDS(R), live from the historic Radio City Music Hall in New York City, Sunday, June 9 (8:00-11:00 PM, live ET/delayed PT) on the CBS Television Network. The star-studded lineup includes Sara Bareilles, Laura Benanti, Abigail Breslin, Danny Burstein, Kristin Chenoweth, Jesse Tyler Ferguson, Josh Groban, Danai Gurira, Jake Gyllenhaal, Chris Jackson, Shirley Jones, Jane Krakowski, Judith Light, Lucy Liu, Aasif Mandvi, Sienna Miller, Brian Stokes Mitchell, Catherine O’Hara, Kelli O’Hara, Karen Olivo, Anthony Ramos, Marisa Tomei, Aaron Tveit, Samira Wiley and BeBe Winans.

Emmy and Tony Award winner James Corden will host the 2019 Tony Awards for the second time. As previously announced, Darren Criss, Tina Fey, Sutton Foster, Samuel L. Jackson, LaTanya Richardson Jackson, Regina King, Laura Linney, Audra McDonald, Ben Platt, Billy Porter, Andrew Rannells and Michael Shannon will also take part in Broadway’s biggest night.

The TONY Awards, which honors theater professionals for distinguished achievement on Broadway, has been broadcast on CBS since 1978. This year marks the 73rd anniversary of the TONY Awards, which were first held on April 6, 1947 at the Waldorf Astoria’s Grand Ballroom. The ceremony is presented by Tony Award Productions, which is a joint venture of the Broadway League and the American Theatre Wing, which founded the Tonys.

Ricky Kirshner and Glenn Weiss of White Cherry Entertainment will return as executive producers. Weiss will also serve as director for the 20th consecutive year. Ben Winston is a producer.

June 6, 2019 UPDATE:

Cynthia Erivo (Photo by Barry Brecheisen)

The Tony Awards telecast will feature performances by the casts of “Ain’t Too Proud – The Life and Times of the Temptations”; “Beetlejuice”; “The Cher Show”; “Choir Boy”; “Hadestown”; “Kiss Me, Kate”; “Oklahoma!”; “The Prom” and “Tootsie.” The evening will also feature a special performance by Tony Award winning-actress Cynthia Erivo.

2018 Tony Awards: first group of presenters announced

May 30, 2018

Tony Awards logo

The following is a press release from the Tony Awards:

Some of the biggest stars from stage and screen will appear at the 72nd  Annual Tony Awards, which will be hosted by Sara Bareilles and Josh Groban will be broadcasted live from Radio City Music Hall in New York City on CBS on Sunday, June 10, 8:00 – 11:00 p.m. (ET/PT time delay). The Tony Awards are presented by The Broadway League and the American Theatre Wing.

Broadway’s biggest night will feature appearances by Uzo Aduba, Matt Bomer, Claire Danes, Armie Hammer, Tatiana Maslany, Leslie Odom, Jr., Jim Parsons, Zachary Quinto and Andrew Rannells.

The American Theatre Wing’s 72nd Annual Tony Awards, hosted by Sara Bareilles and Josh Groban, will air live from Radio City Music Hall on the CBS Television Network on Sunday, June 10, 2018 (8:00-11:00 PM, ET/delayed PT). The Tony Awards, which honors theatre professionals for distinguished achievement on Broadway, has been broadcast on CBS since 1978. The Tony Awards are presented by The Broadway League and the American Theatre Wing.

For more information on the Tony Awards, visit and and follow @TheTonyAwards on Instagram and Twitter.

About the Tony Awards

The American Theatre Wing’s Tony Awards are presented by The Broadway League and the American Theatre Wing. At The Broadway League, Thomas Schumacher is Chairman and Charlotte St. Martin is President. At the American Theatre Wing, David Henry Hwang is Chair and Heather A. Hitchens is President & CEO. Ricky Kirshner and Glenn Weiss of White Cherry Entertainment are the Executive Producers of the 2018 Tony Awards. Mr. Weiss will also serve as Director of the 2018 Tony Awards.

Sponsors for the 2018 Tony Awards include: IBM – develops, designs, and hosts the official Tony Awards digital experience anchored by; Carnegie Mellon University – the first-ever, exclusive higher education partner; Grant Thornton LLP – official accounting services partner; City National – official bank of the Tony Awards and presenting sponsor of the Creative Arts Awards; Nordstrom – official sponsor of the Red Carpet; Sofitel New York – the official hotel of the Tony Awards; Rainbow Room – official partner of the Tony Nominee Luncheon; United Airlines – the official airline of the Tony Awards for the last 18 years, Entertainment Benefits Group – exclusive VIP package sponsor of the Tony Awards and People/Entertainment Weekly – official magazine partners of the Tony Awards.

Copyright 2017-2024 Culture Mix