Trolls Band Together

November 17, 202365/1006 min
Anna Kendrick, David Diggs, Justin Timberlake, Zooey Deschanel
Written by
Jonathan Aibel, Glenn Berger, and Elizabeth Tippet
Directed by
Walt Dohrn and Tim Heitz
Run Time
1h 32min
Release Date
November 17th, 2023
Overall Score
Rating Summary

In the Dreamworks universe only 4 of their animated films made it to 3 or more in the series. Those being Shrek, Madagascar, Kung Fu Panda, and How to Train Your Dragon. Not bad company to be part of, now we get to catch up with those fuzzy, high-hair critters in Trolls Band Together. After the epically big and slightly overstuffed sequel Trolls World Tour, which also had the misfortune of being released in the year of COVID, Co-Director Walt Dorn and his team scale it back a bit for the latest adventures of Poppy and Branch.

We begin in the past where Branch (Justin Timberlake) is the youngest in a popular boy band called ‘BroZone’ with his brothers: Spruce (Daveed Diggs), Floyd (Troye Sivan), Clay (Kid Cudi), and leader of the band John Dory (Eric André). In their biggest show they reluctantly attempt to hit the perfect harmony at strong urging of John Dory. When it falls flat, the brothers go their separate ways which brings us back to the present on the wedding day of Bridget (Zooey Deschanel) and King Gristle (Christopher Mintz-Plasse). Just as the nuptials are about to take place John Dory crashes to tell Branch that their brother Floyd has been kidnapped and is being drained of his talent by evil pop duo Velvet & Veneer (voiced by Amy Schumer and Andrew Rannells respectively) and with the help of Queen Poppy (Anna Kendrick) they are off to save the day.

I appreciate that this film pulled back and didn’t try to outdo the last film which fell into most sequel traps. Unfortunately the plot of Trolls Band Together is roughly the same as the first film, Branch is reluctantly dragged into a rescue mission with super bubbly Poppy to save fellow Trolls from death. Only they replaced hungry for food Bergens with hungry for fame pop stars. There is some fun along the way, like a trippy trip into the twisted muppet-looking world of Vacation-Land. And the usual shifts in animation style to try to stay fresh, but not all of it lands in cohesive way. Kendrick is still full-on adorable as Poppy, and rarely misses a step even as they force a plot twist on her character midway through the film. And even if he’s not crushing it as he did in the original, Timberlake stays instep as the grumpy Branch. They new voice cast do the best with what they are given, but the script doesn’t really flow, and maybe could have stood another re-write to bring it “Together” better.

The music which is the “two” of this two-hander series has more misses than hits this time around, both when the songs are played for emotion or laughs. Nothing as of yet beats that great sound of the original Trolls soundtrack where there was not a clunker in the bunch. After watching this film, my daughter and I were jamming out to the OG soundtrack and as of this writing I’m still muttering “If you knock-knock me over, I. Will. Get back up again!” to myself. Nothing really like that here in a very boy band sound, which I’ll admit was never for me. Well maybe some of the NKOTB stuff. Still, this is a fun family film that focuses on family, and though the message is not strong, it held my interest. So it’s bit of a shame that Trolls Band Together doesn’t quite hit the high notes, it still manages to stay in solid auto-tune.

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