Trolls Band Together, the third film in the Trolls series (not counting various shorts and specials) returns us to the world of Trolls. Not big ugly trolls of folklore (that description actually more befits their pals, another race known as the “Bergens”), but cutesy, colorful, Trolls who love to sing and dance, based on the classic toy line. Yeah, they’re basically Smurfs with big hair.
Once again returning protagonists Poppy and Branch (Anna Kendrick and Justin Timberlake) are back, this time for what amounts to a “getting the band back together” road movie.
Branch wistfully remembers a shrouded past that he doesn’t like to talk about, remembering this brothers, who were incidentally also a boy band known as BroZone. The band broke up when he was still a child, and in the years since he never saw his brothers again. But that changes when one of them suddenly shows up with terrible news: their brother Floyd has been kidnapped and is being held captive by a brother-sister pop duo, Velvet and Veneer, who are physically leeching his powers to achieve stardom, a process that is also slowly killing him, and it’ll take all of the brothers working together to save him. And thus Branch and Poppy, along with their pal Tiny Diamond, set off on their newest adventure.
While Branch is reconnecting with his long-lost brothers, there’s also an unexpected surprise for Poppy: She, too, has a long-lost sibling. Objectively it’s a little absurd (suddenly, siblings!) but for kids’ fare, it’s fair game as a plot, and an exploration of what it means to be family.
There’s definitely a big “boy band” component to this story, so your mileage may vary wildly based on how much you love or hate them. I can appreciate that the humor’s handled in a way that’s self-aware and self-deprecating. For example, when a list of several of BroZone’s song titles is rattled off; all of them are repetitive variations of the same formulaic phrase.
So just to lay this out clearly: I am not a fan of these Trolls movies. At all. Which I suppose begs the question, why would I want to watch and review the newest one?
The answer is simple enough: my daughter likes these movies and if you’re reading this, maybe you have kids who like them too. And on that grading scale, Trolls Band Together works. It’s frequently funny, occasionally clever, and family appropriate (unlike, say, the Trolls Holiday Special where one of the trolls flashes his dick – no, seriously). The “road movie” angle is actually a huge blessing: the Trolls’ village is populated by a ton of gratingly annoying supporting characters who thankfully get to sit this one out for the most part, sidelined here in favor of several new faces.
The film does stand out in one particular way that I want to give it credit for. It’s not as pronounced as Puss in Boots: The Last Wish or the Spider-Verse movies, but the film does make some some cool animation choices that take it up a notch. The gang drives a bus of sorts (like many of the apparatuses of this world it’s a weird living creature), which features a fast travel mode. When the nitro is activated, things kick into a trippy, Yellow Submarine-esque hand-drawn animation. It’s visually wild and a fun addition.
The other animation aspect I really dug is the world of “Mount Rageous”, the home of antagonists Velvet and Veneer. The “Rageons” who populate this world are reminiscent of vintage 1930s spaghetti-limbed cartoons, but rendered in modern fashion. I love these character designs, and that’s something I would never have expected to say about a Trolls movie.
Its premise is thin, but the Trolls’ third outing is probably the best, thanks to its animation concepts and a family-oriented story that emphasizes forgiveness and love.
– A/V Out